Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
  Mars Exploration News  




Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















MARSDAILY
Curiosity Peels Back Layers on Ancient Martian Lake
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Jun 02, 2017


This evenly layered rock imaged in 2014 by the Mastcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows a pattern typical of a lake-floor sedimentary deposit near where flowing water entered a lake. Shallow and deep parts of an ancient Martian lake left different clues in mudstone formed from lakebed deposits. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A long-lasting lake on ancient Mars provided stable environmental conditions that differed significantly from one part of the lake to another, according to a comprehensive look at findings from the first three-and-a-half years of NASA's Curiosity rover mission.

Different conditions favorable for different types of microbes existed simultaneously in the same lake.

Previous work had revealed the presence of a lake more than three billion years ago in Mars' Gale Crater. This study defines the chemical conditions that existed in the lake and uses Curiosity's powerful payload to determine that the lake was stratified.

Stratified bodies of water exhibit sharp chemical or physical differences between deep water and shallow water. In Gale's lake, the shallow water was richer in oxidants than deeper water was.

"These were very different, co-existing environments in the same lake," said Joel Hurowitz of Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, lead author of a report of the findings in the June 2 edition of the journal Science.

"This type of oxidant stratification is a common feature of lakes on Earth, and now we've found it on Mars. The diversity of environments in this Martian lake would have provided multiple opportunities for different types of microbes to survive, including those that thrive in oxidant-rich conditions, those that thrive in oxidant-poor conditions, and those that inhabit the interface between those settings."

Whether Mars has ever hosted any life is still unknown, but seeking signs of life on any planet - whether Earth, Mars or more-distant icy worlds - begins with reconstruction of the environment to determine if it was capable of supporting life.

Curiosity's primary goal when it landed inside Gale Crater in 2012 was to determine whether Mars has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. In its first year, on the crater floor at "Yellowknife Bay," the rover found evidence of ancient freshwater river and lake environments with all the main chemical ingredients for life and a possible energy source for life.

Curiosity has since driven to the base of Mount Sharp, a layered mountain inside the crater, and inspected rock layers that grow progressively younger as the rover gains elevation on lower Mount Sharp.

Differences in the physical, chemical and mineral characteristics of several sites on lower Mount Sharp at first presented a puzzle to the rover team.

For example, some rocks showed thicker layering with a larger proportion of an iron mineral called hematite, while other rocks showed very fine layers and more of an iron mineral called magnetite. Comparing these properties suggested very distinctive environments of deposition.

Researchers considered whether these differences could have resulted from environmental conditions fluctuating over time or differing from place to place.

"We could tell something was going on," Hurowitz said. "What was causing iron minerals to be one flavor in one part of the lake and another flavor in another part of the lake? We had an 'Aha!' moment when we realized that the mineral information and the bedding-thickness information mapped perfectly onto each other in a way you would expect from a stratified lake with a chemical boundary between shallow water and deeper water."

In addition to revealing new information about chemical conditions within the lake, the report by Hurowitz and 22 co-authors also documents fluctuations in the climate of ancient Mars. One such change happened between the time crater-floor rocks were deposited and the time the rocks that now make up the base of Mount Sharp were deposited. Those later rocks are exposed at "Pahrump Hills" and elsewhere.

The method the team used for detecting changes in ancient climate conditions on Mars resembles how ice cores are used to study past temperature conditions on Earth. It is based on comparing differences in the chemical composition of layers of mud-rich sedimentary rock that were deposited in quiet waters in the lake.

While the lake was present in Gale, climate conditions changed from colder and drier to warmer and wetter. Such short-term fluctuations in climate took place within a longer-term climate evolution from the ancient warmer and wetter conditions that supported lakes, to today's arid Mars.

"These results give us unprecedented detail in answering questions about ancient environmental conditions on Mars," said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

"I'm struck by how these fascinating conclusions on habitability and climate took everything the mission had to offer: a set of sophisticated science instruments, multiple years and miles of exploration, a landing site that retained a record of the ancient environment, and a lot of hard work by the mission team."

Research paper

MARSDAILY
Halos discovered on Mars widen time frame for potential life
Los Alamos NM (SPX) May 31, 2017
Lighter-toned bedrock that surrounds fractures and comprises high concentrations of silica--called "halos"--has been found in Gale crater on Mars, indicating that the planet had liquid water much longer than previously believed. The new finding is reported in a paper published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. "The concentration of sili ... read more

Related Links
Mars Curiosity Rover
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

MARSDAILY
Cube Quest Challenge Team Spotlight: Cislunar Explorers

Winning plans for CubeSats to the Moon

Printing bricks from moondust using the Sun's heat

NASA selects ASU's ShadowCam for moon mission

MARSDAILY
Spotlight: First China-designed experiment flies to space station

News Analysis: U.S.-China space freeze may thaw with new commercial pathway

China willing to cooperate in peaceful space exploration: Xi

California Woman Charged for Trying to Hand Over Sensitive Space Tech to China

MARSDAILY
Inspiration Links The Beatles, a Fossil and a NASA Mission

First 24-hour Global Broadcast About Asteroid Impact Hazard

NASA's Asteroid-Hunting Spacecraft a Discovery Machine

'Tiny clocks' crystallize understanding of meteorite crashes

MARSDAILY
A whole new Jupiter with first science results from Juno

First results from Juno show cyclones and massive magnetism

Jupiters complex transient auroras

NASA's Juno probe forces 'rethink' on Jupiter

MARSDAILY
In a Cosmic Hit-and-Run, Icy Saturn Moon May Have Flipped

Cassini Finds Saturn Moon May Have Tipped Over

Cassini Looks On as Solstice Arrives at Saturn

History of Titan's Landscape Resembles Mars's, not Earth's

MARSDAILY
The heat is on for Sentinel-3B

exactEarth Launches Revolutionary Global Real-Time Maritime Tracking and Information Service

Earth is a jewel, says astronaut after six months away

SES-14 integrates NASA ultraviolet space spectrograph

MARSDAILY
Astronauts return after marathon ISS mission

From 2D to 3D, Space Station Microscope Gets an Upgrade

John Glenn Cygnus departs ISS begins secondary mission

Studying Flame Behavior in Microgravity with a Solid "High-Five"

MARSDAILY
Discovery reveals planet almost as hot as the Sun

Hubble's tale of 2 exoplanets - Nature vs nurture

Astronomers discover alien world hotter than most stars

Citizen scientists uncover a cold new world near sun




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement