From Martian rocks, a planet's watery story emerges

Apr 02, 2014

After 18 months on Mars, the rover Curiosity has taken more than 120,000 measurements of surface rocks and soil, painting a more detailed image of how much water was once on the Red Planet. An article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) describes the technique scientists are using to analyze the rocks and what they've found.

Celia Arnaud, a senior editor at C&EN, notes that Curiosity has traveled nearly 4 miles since it landed in 2012 and is more than halfway to its destination, Mount Sharp. But in the meantime, its onboard equipment is collecting a treasure trove of information about the Red Planet's surface. The rover is equipped with an instrument called ChemCam, short for "Chemistry & Camera." It not only snaps high-resolution images of the barren landscape it passes, but also can figure out what's in the and rocks within about 23 feet of its location. Scientists back on Earth, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, aim the ChemCam at targeted rocks and zap them with a laser beam. The instrument reads the light that bounces back and can tell what atoms and molecules are in the rocks.

Scientists have found that the weight of the dust they've sampled is 2 to 4 percent water. And for the first time, they have confirmed that the common element fluorine exists on Mars. With about 3 miles more to go before it reaches Mount Sharp, Curiosity is sure to keep adding new details to the emerging picture of our planetary neighbor.

Explore further: Martian laser surpasses 100,000 zaps

More information: "Zapping Rocks on Mars" cen.acs.org/articles/92/i13/La… ment-Zaps-Rocks.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Martian laser surpasses 100,000 zaps

Dec 05, 2013

(Phys.org) —The ChemCam laser instrument aboard NASA's Curiosity rover fired its 100,000th shot recently, chronicling its adventures on Mars with a coffee-table-book's worth of spectral data that might ...

Take a look through Curiosity's ChemCam

Aug 23, 2012

While Curiosity has been getting a good look around its landing spot on Mars, taking in the sights and sending back some impressive views of distant hills and Gale Crater's enormous central peak, it's also been peering very closely at so ...

Recommended for you

Proteins: New class of materials discovered

23 minutes ago

Scientists at the Helmholtz Center Berlin along with researchers at China's Fudan University have characterized a new class of materials called protein crystalline frameworks.

The fluorescent fingerprint of plastics

20 hours ago

LMU researchers have developed a new process which will greatly simplify the process of sorting plastics in recycling plants. The method enables automated identification of polymers, facilitating rapid separation ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

katesisco
not rated yet Apr 02, 2014
Well, we have flourine and perchlorates just like here. So, our water must be by a standard process also. I have proposed that when Sol retards its magnetic polar reversal, that it is shadowing how the 'reversal status' was the norm. We see lots of interesting things while this unusual configuration of the magnetosphere exists-see NASA a star with two poles. I suspect this unusual configuration of the solar systems magnetosphere along with unusual solar equatorial emissions is how we got our water: it is created by our unusual energy from Sol.