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Curiosity Finds Old Streambed

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#1    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 27 September 2012 - 07:06 PM

NASA Rover Finds Old Streambed on Martian Surface



www.nasa.gov said:

Posted Image

NASA's Curiosity rover found evidence for an ancient, flowing stream on Mars at a few sites, including the rock outcrop pictured here, which the science team has named "Hottah" after Hottah Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS› Full image and caption  › Latest images   › Curiosity gallery  › Curiosity videos



In this image from NASA's Curiosity rover,<br />
a rock outcrop called Link pops out from a<br />
Martian surface that is elsewhere blanketed<br />
by reddish-brown dust.<br />
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS  <br />
<a href='http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia16188.html' class='bbc_url' title='External link' rel='nofollow external'>› Full image and caption</a>
In this image from NASA's Curiosity rover,
a rock outcrop called Link pops out from a
Martian surface that is elsewhere blanketed
by reddish-brown dust.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS  
› Full image and caption
PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Curiosity rover mission has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence -- images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels -- is the first of its kind.

Scientists are studying the images of stones cemented into a layer of conglomerate rock. The sizes and shapes of stones offer clues to the speed and distance of a long-ago stream's flow.

"From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep," said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley. "Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different hypotheses about the flows in them. This is the first time we're actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it."

The finding site lies between the north rim of Gale Crater and the base of Mount Sharp, a mountain inside the crater. Earlier imaging of the region from Mars orbit allows for additional interpretation of the gravel-bearing conglomerate. The imagery shows an alluvial fan of material washed down from the rim, streaked by many apparent channels, sitting uphill of the new finds.

The rounded shape of some stones in the conglomerate indicates long-distance transport from above the rim, where a channel named Peace Vallis feeds into the alluvial fan. The abundance of channels in the fan between the rim and conglomerate suggests flows continued or repeated over a long time, not just once or for a few years.

This image shows the topography, with<br />
shading added, around the area where<br />
NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Aug. 5<br />
PDT (Aug. 6 EDT).<br />
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UofA  <br />
<a href='http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia16158.html' class='bbc_url' title='External link' rel='nofollow external'>› Full image and caption</a>
This image shows the topography, with
shading added, around the area where
NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Aug. 5
PDT (Aug. 6 EDT).
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UofA  
› Full image and caption
The discovery comes from examining two outcrops, called "Hottah" and "Link," with the telephoto capability of Curiosity's mast camera during the first 40 days after landing. Those observations followed up on earlier hints from another outcrop, which was exposed by thruster exhaust as Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory Project's rover, touched down.

"Hottah looks like someone jack-hammered up a slab of city sidewalk, but it's really a tilted block of an ancient streambed," said Mars Science Laboratory Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The gravels in conglomerates at both outcrops range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Some are angular, but many are rounded.

"The shapes tell you they were transported and the sizes tell you they couldn't be transported by wind. They were transported by water flow," said Curiosity science co-investigator Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz.

The science team may use Curiosity to learn the elemental composition of the material, which holds the conglomerate together, revealing more characteristics of the wet environment that formed these deposits. The stones in the conglomerate provide a sampling from above the crater rim, so the team may also examine several of them to learn about broader regional geology.

The slope of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater remains the rover's main destination. Clay and sulfate minerals detected there from orbit can be good preservers of carbon-based organic chemicals that are potential ingredients for life.

"A long-flowing stream can be a habitable environment," said Grotzinger. "It is not our top choice as an environment for preservation of organics, though. We're still going to Mount Sharp, but this is insurance that we have already found our first potentially habitable environment."

During the two-year prime mission of the Mars Science Laboratory, researchers will use Curiosity's 10 instruments to investigate whether areas in Gale Crater have ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech, built Curiosity and manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

For more about Curiosity, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl .

You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .  


Guy Webster / D.C. Agle 818-354-5011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena,Calif.
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov / agle@jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

2012-305



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#2    Professor T

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Posted 27 September 2012 - 07:36 PM

Cool.
There's a good spot to dig up some fossles.


#3    Ashotep

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Posted 27 September 2012 - 07:44 PM

Sounds like the creek I swim in.


#4    keithisco

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Posted 27 September 2012 - 08:01 PM

This is getting really interesting because such deposits (and stone polishing) does not happen in decades but centuries or thousands of years and 3 feet per second would suggest a much longer time-span.

The question I would ask is where did the flow stop, into a lake, underground via a sump, or just out into parched land to evaporate? This is really the point where manned expeditions triumph. The ability to gather data quickly, to recognise important data and to follow up quickly. If the water flowed into a lake then you have the conditions (possibly) for life to take hold.

If Mt Sharp truly holds clay deposits, not too dessicated by the current harsh climate, then we are looking back at millions of years of deposition, and, dare I say it, potentially millions of years of evolution?

For me, Curiosity has already paid back the development and launch costs and it has hardly started its voyage of discovery.


#5    Professor T

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 12:29 AM

that's a good question.    ^
This old stream bed is on the edge of gale crater. How old is the crater, was it once a lake?
I wonder if it would be worth while heading to the lowest point and digging a few feet.

There should be no evaporation on Mars, to cold... But the permafrost might be very shallow..


#6    tipotep

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 02:01 AM

Now this is more like it !

I have had high hopes that they would find something interesting on Mars and it looks like it may be sooner rather than later .

^^  I was having the same thought about where it flowed from and too , no doubt NASA are asking the same question :tu:

How amazing would it be if they find some sort of lake bed , dig around a little and find a fossil or even a skeleton or a bone .

Now that would make my day :clap:

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#7    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 02:22 AM

View PostProfessor T, on 28 September 2012 - 12:29 AM, said:

There should be no evaporation on Mars, to cold... But the permafrost might be very shallow..
Actually it is quite the opposite.

Evaporation is not dependent just on temperature, it also depends on pressure. Because atmospheric pressure is so low on Mars evaporation occurs at much lower temperatures. Even more significant water undergoes sublimation... it goes straight from solid ice to water vapour without going through the liquid stage. It acts in the same way as dry ice does on Earth

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#8    ninjadude

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 02:27 AM

View PostWaspie_Dwarf, on 28 September 2012 - 02:22 AM, said:

Because atmospheric pressure is so low on Mars evaporation occurs at much lower temperatures.

That's true today. Still open as to whether that is true in the distant past. I saw the photo a few days ago and wish to be there close up. That conglomerate. We find fossils there maybe. Still wish the rover would get even closer pictures. But I think they are going onward.

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#9    keithisco

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 05:39 AM

I have just been reading up on the gases released during volcanic events and on the earth the most abundant is water vapour (followed by CO2 and SO2). It does not necessarily follow for Mars as the geology is very different. IF it did then it could point to the source of a large amount of water flowing on the surface in the past when it was geologically active (Olympus Mons comes to mind which appears to have been active up to 2mya). The downside of this source is that the atmosphere may well have been inimical to life - but there are examples on Earth, at fumeroles, of life in very high concentrations of sulphur .

Is it possible that gaseous outpourings during the last Martian volcanic era  was sufficient to create a high enough atmospheric pressure at the surface for liquid water to flow? I dont know, I will leave that for others more knowledgeable to reply to.

Just a thought

Edited by keithisco, 28 September 2012 - 05:43 AM.


#10    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 01:12 PM

View Postninjadude, on 28 September 2012 - 02:27 AM, said:

That's true today. Still open as to whether that is true in the distant past.
I agree that it clearly wasn't true in the past otherwise we would not have evidence of thing such as stream beds. I was however responding to Professor T's comment:

View PostProfessor T, on 28 September 2012 - 12:29 AM, said:

There should be no evaporation on Mars, to cold... But the permafrost might be very shallow..
which is a statement about current conditions.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#11    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 03:17 PM


River Fans on Earth and Mars

Curiosity science team member William Dietrich explores the relationship between river fans found in California’s Death Valley on Earth and similar fans in Gale Crater on Mars.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech  › Curiosity's mission site

Source: NASA - Multimedia

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#12    DONTEATUS

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 09:49 PM

Waspie , Have you seen or read about the Mars photos that are on Yahoo ? The guys seems a crack pot ? Says NASA put together a sequience od photos, I saw it early today now its gone ? I thought maybe you saw it too? Lots of C.T `s out there. :tu:
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#13    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 09:54 PM

There are an awful lot of photos on Yahoo, DONTEATUS. There are also an awful lot of crackpot theories about Mars and NASA. Without a bit more of a clue I really can't tell if I've seen the particular images you are talking about.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#14    Professor T

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 11:16 PM

View PostWaspie_Dwarf, on 28 September 2012 - 02:22 AM, said:

Actually it is quite the opposite.

Evaporation is not dependent just on temperature, it also depends on pressure. Because atmospheric pressure is so low on Mars evaporation occurs at much lower temperatures. Even more significant water undergoes sublimation... it goes straight from solid ice to water vapour without going through the liquid stage. It acts in the same way as dry ice does on Earth
Yeah..
I didn't think of that..
Still though, it makes one wonder where all the water went..

I don't think it would all evaporate into space, even though gravity is only 1/3 of earths..


#15    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 28 September 2012 - 11:29 PM

View PostProfessor T, on 28 September 2012 - 11:16 PM, said:

Still though, it makes one wonder where all the water went..
If you could answer that you would be in the running for a Nobel Prize. If, as many suspect, Mars was once a warm wet world then what happened to its atmosphere and its water is a big mystery.

Although it is clear that there was once flowing liquid water on the Martian surface there is still a big debate as to how much. Many believe there is strong evidence of former oceans, whilst others argue that the same effects do not require oceans.

It is to answer big questions like this that we need to continue exploring Mars. If Mars was once a warm, wet world then it must have undergone (from the point of view of life) a catastrophic change in climate. Understanding what caused that will be hugely beneficial in understanding the Earth's climate.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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