Significant Find on Mars?

mrpoultice

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#1
NASA Schedules Briefing to Announce Significant Find on Mars

WASHINGTON - NASA hosts a news briefing at 1 p.m. EST, Wednesday, Dec. 6, to present new science results from the Mars Global Surveyor. The briefing will take place in the NASA Headquarters auditorium located at 300 E Street, S.W. in Washington and carried live on NASA Television and www.nasa.gov.

The agency last week announced the spacecraft's mission may be at its end. Mars Global Surveyor has served the longest and been the most productive of any spacecraft ever sent to the red planet. Data gathered from the mission will continue to be analyzed by scientists.

Panelists include:
- Michael Meyer -- Lead Scientist, Mars Exploration Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
- Michael Malin -- President and Chief Scientist, Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, Calif.
- Kenneth Edgett -- Scientist, Malin Space Science Systems
- Philip Christensen -- Professor, Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz.

Reporters at participating agency field centers will be able to ask questions. For more information about NASA TV streaming video, downlink and schedule information, visit the web at:
Here

Sounds like it could be interesting. Doubt it's going to the long awaited discovery of subsurface martian bunnies, but still could be good!

Can I be the first to declare:... "The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one,"

Mr P

Edit* Errr what time is 1 p.m. EST in good old UK time?
 
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#2
All I'm reading is, "We have found some tantalizing glimpses of possible life signs and or water sources, which we have been holding back and hoarding against the day when our Mars Surveyor expedition finally packs in and we have to beg for much, much more monies, which could be spent on a myriad far more serious and relevant things, from our bankrupt Government."

Sorry. Could be wrong, of course, but the hype is coming thick and fast. New Moonbases and mention of the threat of China and India getting there first and etc. all seems to be heading towards the NASA Space Collection Plate Prayathon. :(
 

many_angled_one

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#3
1pm EST is 6pm in the Uk I beleive.

Maybe it's a probe being destroyed by a big transformer-shaped robot? :D
 

Rrose_Selavy

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#6
UsedtobChrisFord said:
Water flowing on mars. It's on their website right now.
Water maybe ...or maybe not. depending on who you ask.

Water flowed 'recently' on Mars
Nasa says it has found "compelling" evidence that liquid water flowed recently on the surface of Mars.
The finding adds further weight to the idea that Mars might harbour the right conditions for life.

The appearance of gullies, revealed in orbital images from a Nasa probe, suggests that water could have flowed on the surface in the last few years.

But some scientists think these fresh gullies could also have been cut by liquid carbon dioxide (CO2).

The latest research emerged when Nasa's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft spotted gullies and trenches that scientists believed were geologically young and carved by fast-moving water coursing down cliffs and steep crater walls.

Scientists at the San Diego-based Malin Space Science Systems, who operate a camera aboard MGS decided to retake photos of thousands of gullies in search of evidence for recent water activity.


We're now realising Mars is more active than we previously thought, and that the mid-latitude section seems to be where all the action is
Phil Christensen, Arizona State University

Two gullies that were originally photographed in 1999 and 2001, and imaged again in 2004 and 2005, showed changes consistent with water flowing down the crater walls, according to the study.
In both cases, scientists found bright, light-coloured deposits in the gullies that were not present in the original photos. They concluded that the deposits - possibly mud, salt or frost - were left there when water recently cascaded through the channels.

Other scientists think it possible that gullies like this were caused not by water but by liquid carbon dioxide.

One of the reasons for favouring CO2 was that computer models of the Martian crust indicated water could exist only at depths of several kilometres. Liquid carbon dioxide, on the other hand, could persist much nearer the surface where temperatures can drop as low as -107C.


Prospects for life

Oded Aharonson, an assistant professor of planetary science at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) said that while the interpretation of recent water activity on Mars was "compelling," it was just one possible explanation.

Aharonson said further study was needed to determine whether the deposits could have been left there by the flow of dust rather than water.

Deciding what was responsible for the features is a pressing question that has important consequences for the likelihood of life on Mars. Scientists have proposed that reservoirs of liquid water could exist beneath the Martian surface, providing a habitat for microbial life.

"This underscores the importance of searching for life on Mars, either present or past," said Bruce Jakosky, an astrobiologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who had no role in the study. "It's one more reason to think that life could be there."

Mars Global Surveyor abruptly lost radio contact with Earth last month. Attempts to locate the spacecraft, which has mapped the Red Planet since 1996, have failed, and scientists fear it is lost.

Nasa's Mars rovers, which landed in 2004, have sent scientists back equally strong evidence that liquid water flowed on the surface in ancient times, based on observations of alterations in ancient rocks.

"We're now realising Mars is more active than we previously thought, and that the mid-latitude section seems to be where all the action is," said Arizona State University scientist Phil Christensen, who was not part of the current research.

Details of the work appear in the journal Science.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/s ... 214834.stm

Published: 2006/12/06 18:13:10 GMT

© BBC MMVI
 

rynner2

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#7
New Scientist version here:
http://email.newscientist.com/cgi-bin1/ ... DA0DaSi0An
(Many links on page.)
Water flows on Mars, before our very eyes
18:00 06 December 2006
NewScientist.com news service
David Shiga

This 24-metre-wide crater was first spotted in December 2003. It was not present in an earlier image from April 2001 (Image: NASA/JPL/MSSS) Liquid water has flowed on the surface of Mars within the past five years, suggest images by the now lost Mars Global Surveyor (MGS). The results appear to boost the chances that Mars could harbour life.
In 1999, MGS spotted gullies carved on the sides of Martian slopes. Thousands of gullies have been imaged since then, most recently by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) (see Stunning snaps from the best camera ever sent to Mars).
Many scientists believe the gullies were carved by liquid water, although others have argued they are due to avalanches of carbon dioxide gas or rivers of dust.
The gullies appear to have formed sometime in the past several hundred thousand years, since impact craters have not accumulated on top of them. But exactly how long ago material flowed through them has not been clear.
Now, new flows have appeared in two of the gullies monitored by MGS, showing that they have been active within the past several years. The research was led by Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, California, US. That company operates the Mars Orbiter Camera on MGS, which acquired the images.
Ice shellOne gully on a crater wall that was imaged in 2001 was found to have filled with light-coloured material when it was re-imaged in 2005. A similar new light-coloured deposit appears in a 2004 image of crater gullies previously imaged in 1999.
The researchers suggest the deposits were made by liquid water flowing out from beneath the surface. The researchers estimate that each flow would have involved 5 to 10 swimming pools' worth of water.
It would have been similar to a flash flood in the desert, says team member Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems. "If you were there and this thing was coming down the slope, you'd probably want to get out of the way," he says.
Any liquid water exposed to Mars's atmosphere would quickly freeze, but Malin's team says even if the exterior of the flow rapidly freezes, water could continue flowing much farther inside this ice shell, developing into a thick mixture of ice and sediment that would eventually freeze completely.
Active todayIn Mars's thin atmosphere, ice left on the surface would quickly sublimate, changing from a solid to a gas, and disappear. But water vapour diffusing out from deeper in the mixture of ice and sediment could repeatedly coat the surface with frost, maintaining its light colour long enough for MGS to spot it, the researchers say.
Alternatively, salt deposited from salty water or sediment placed there by water flow may be responsible for the light colour.
MGS team member Phil Christensen of Arizona State University in Tempe, US, who was not involved in this study, says he is convinced that the gullies were formed by the action of liquid water.
"It says something is actively going on today in at least some of these gullies and one intriguing possibility is that water was released," he told New Scientist.
"I think they make a pretty good case that these aren't simply dust avalanches or some wind-related process," he says. He adds that the sublimating carbon dioxide scenario is even less likely, because temperatures in the regions where the gullies are found – between 30° and 60° from the equator – are too high for the gas to get frozen in the first place.
Just dust?Allan Treiman of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, US, agrees that something flowed recently to make the observed changes.
But he is not convinced that water was involved. "There is no direct evidence of water in the images – only that something flowed downhill. My money is on sand and dust, because there's lots and lots of sand and dust on Mars."
Streaks on slopes have been observed before and interpreted as the result of dust avalanches. But these appear to be a separate phenomenon from the new light-coloured gully deposits, the researchers say.
Newly formed dust streaks have been observed, but are always dark. The dust streaks are also usually observed in areas where the surface clearly has a thick coating that could be dust, unlike the two craters in question. And dust streaks have never been observed on the same slopes where gullies carve into the surface.
The formation of new gullies has been observed before also, but these were on the sides of sand dunes, and were more clearly related to avalanching sand (see Landslips, impacts and eroding ice revealed on Mars).
Melting snowIf the deposits are the result of liquid water flow, the source of the water is not clear. Malin's team suggests it comes from underground aquifers, perhaps kept liquid at low temperatures with the help of high salt concentrations.
Christensen says it could result from the removal of dust from a hypothetical layer of snow, which would then melt when exposed to sunlight.
The SHARAD radar on MRO is potentially capable of detecting any underground pockets of water that the flows might have come from, Malin says. "We're hopeful that as SHARAD flies of over these locations it may be able to detect these subsurface aquifers," he says.
The new evidence that liquid water may flow on Mars today boosts the chances that life could be present, Christensen says. "I believe that we have found places on Mars where you could take terrestrial life forms that live on snow or in aquifers and put them there and they would survive," he says.
Malin's team also reports in the same study the formation on Mars of 20 new craters between 2 and 150 metres across since 1999, confirming the previously estimated rate of crater formation and reinforcing the view that crater-free areas of Mars must truly be young or recently modified.
The discovery may be one of the last from MGS, which went silent shortly before its 10th launch anniversary in early November, and has not been heard from since (see Europe joins hunt for missing Mars probe).
 

Xanatico

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#8
Is there not also the possibility that this gully was not seen on the earlier photos because it was covered by Mars dust?
 
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