Observations by a long-running Mars mission counsel that liquid water might have flowed on the Pink Planet as little as 2 billion years in the past, a lot later than scientists as soon as thought.
Scientists charted the presence of chloride salt deposits left behind by flowing water utilizing years of knowledge from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which has been orbiting the Pink Planet since 2006.
By learning dozens of pictures of salt deposits taken by the spacecraft’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), the scientists interpreted a youthful age for the salt deposits utilizing a technique “crater counting.” The youthful a area is, the less craters it ought to have, with changes for facets corresponding to a planet’s ambiance, permitting scientists to estimate its age.
The brand new outcomes push ahead the existence of water on Mars from 3 billion years in the past to as little as 2 billion years in the past, primarily based on the observations, which may have implications for life on Mars and extra broadly, the planet’s geological historical past.
“A part of the worth of MRO is that our view of the planet retains getting extra detailed over time,” Leslie Tamppari, MRO’s deputy venture scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, mentioned in a press release. “The extra of the planet we map with our devices, the higher we will perceive its historical past.”
The scientists additionally created elevation maps utilizing MRO’s wide-angle context digicam, and the zoomed-in views offered by the Excessive-Decision Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) that may spot craters as small because the Curiosity or Perseverance Mars rovers.
The salt minerals had been first noticed by a distinct spacecraft 14 years in the past, known as Mars Odyssey, however MRO’s benefit is it has larger decision devices than its older (and nonetheless operational) companion in orbit.
A examine primarily based on the analysis was revealed Dec. 27, 2021 in AGU American Geophysical Union Advances. The examine was led by Ellen Leask, who did a lot of the work throughout doctoral tales on the California Institute of Expertise. Her supervisor and co-author is Bethany Ehlmann, a planetary scientist on the similar establishment.
Scientists have carried out quite a few research lately to evaluate the extent of flowing water on Mars, each up shut by way of floor missions and utilizing orbital knowledge. Simply days in the past, a suspected underground reservoir of water on the Martian southern pole was debunked utilizing new interpretations of the information.