What Lies Beneath

Mar 15, 2007

Studies conducted by University of Arkansas researchers suggest locations where future Mars missions might seek liquid water underneath Martian soil.

Graduate students Kathryn Bryson and Daniel Ostrowski, postdoctoral researcher Vincent Chevrier and Derek Sears, director of the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, will present their findings Friday, March 16, at the Lunar and Planetary Sciences conference in Houston.

The researchers used a planetary environmental chamber to simulate conditions found on Mars - a carbon dioxide atmosphere, 7 millibars of pressure and temperatures near zero degrees Celsius. Bryson looked at the evaporation rates of ice buried beneath fine-grained basaltic soil at depths of 2.5 to 50 millimeters.

"Soil layers only 5 millimeters deep slowed the evaporation process and greatly increased the lifetime of an ice layer," Bryson said. A soil barrier on top of an ice layer can enable the formation of liquid water by slowing the evaporation rate and warming the surface.

Ostrowski examined the evaporation rates of ice beneath montmorillonite, an aluminum-rich clay recently shown to be present on Mars. Montmorillonite is a hydrated clay that requires the presence of water in some form for its creation.

Studies of the clay soil indicate that the diffusion rate doesn't become steady as quickly as other non-clay materials do, possibly indicating that the clay is adsorbing water, either in liquid or gas form.

"This does not directly imply liquid water, but it does give the possibility if the conditions are right," Ostrowski said.

The upcoming Mars Phoenix Lander mission will be looking for environments similar to those investigated in these experiments, and scientists hope to find evidence for water - and possibly life -- in these regions.

Source: University of Arkansas

Explore further: Exploring Mars in low Earth orbit

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Chinese man brings gay conversion therapy lawsuit

36 minutes ago

(AP)—A gay Chinese man said Thursday he was suing a psychological clinic for carrying out electric shocks intended to turn him straight, as well as the search engine giant Baidu for advertising the center.

Panasonic, Tesla to build big US battery plant

42 minutes ago

(AP)—American electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. is teaming up with Japanese electronics company Panasonic Corp. to build a battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. expected to create 6,500 jobs.

Recommended for you

Exploring Mars in low Earth orbit

12 minutes ago

In their quest to understand life's potential beyond Earth, astrobiologists study how organisms might survive in numerous environments, from the surface of Mars to the ice-covered oceans of Jupiter's moon, ...

Lifetime of gravity measurements heralds new beginning

2 hours ago

Although ESA's GOCE satellite is no more, all of the measurements it gathered during its life skirting the fringes our atmosphere, including the very last as it drifted slowly back to Earth, have been drawn ...

NASA's IceCube no longer on ice

6 hours ago

NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) has chosen a team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to build its first Earth science-related CubeSat mission.

Tidal forces gave moon its shape, according to new analysis

20 hours ago

The shape of the moon deviates from a simple sphere in ways that scientists have struggled to explain. A new study by researchers at UC Santa Cruz shows that most of the moon's overall shape can be explained by taking into ...

User comments : 0