Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Water on Mars

After the discovery of bone dry moon to be holding traces of water molecules... Water on Mars means a lot to the human race. It is not a meagre scientific result where a 9-year old space craft revolving around Mars and 4-years old results have shown liquid water to be flowing during the summer on Mars; rather, these results have re-kindled new hopes of finding life on Mars, as per Michael Meyer, NASA's Mars Exploration Program. Of course, the intelligent, eager and inquisitive human's quest of leaving earth has found astronomical levels of adrenaline pumping into their blood streams.

This is the picture released by NASA which speaks tonnes of words on how the newly appearing streaks, called the recurring slope lineae (RSL)... held the secrets under their belly for so long that it took a smart under graduate student, Lujendra Ojha from Georgia Tech to figure out that these are actually hydrated salts which appear only when the ambiance reaches -23 C and above. In a way, the salts are helping the ice (water) to melt at much much lower temperatures; just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly.

Credit : NASA
SECRETS unravelled..

The dark streaks seem to be appearing in the summer and would again vanish as the temperature dips. It is only due to the long lasting mission Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the versatile instruments it is carrying; that the keen observations of this undergrad student along with his team members that they found a way to unravel the secret beneath these streaks.

Ojha and his team first created a 3-D model (digital terrain map) utilizing the stereo information from  High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera of MRO. The image is draped with the spectral information from Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer (CRISM) of MRO. The spectrometer component of the overlaid image shows information about the hydrated salts at the multiple RSLs.

Ojha and his co-authors interpret the spectral signatures as caused by hydrated minerals called perchlorates. The hydrated salts most consistent with the chemical signatures are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. This study of RSL detected perchlorates, now in hydrated form. This also is the first time perchlorates have been identified from orbit.

Another example of Dark Streaks on Garni crater..

Credit: NASA

Lunar water; Who dunit ??