Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Life On Mars? New Data Reveal Places To Search

February 24, 2005
Brown University
Data freshly gathered by the Mars Express mission and analyzed by a team of scientists, including Brown University professor John Mustard, offer new insight into the mineral composition of Mars. New research, published online by the journal Science, points out promising places to search for evidence of past life.

Large mounds of layered sediments, some of which contain sulfate and clay, can be seen in this image of Valles Marineris. The image comes from the High Resolution Stereo Camera, an instrument aboard Mars Express.
Credit: Photo : European Space Agency

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Mars Express, Europe’s first mission to the Red Planet, has generated a slew of new data about the mineral composition of the planet’s dry, dramatic surface. In six new papers published online by the journal Science, an international team reveals clues about the planet’s past hidden in the rock.

Brown University geoscientist John Mustard co-authored three of the Mars papers, currently published on the Science Express Web site. Mustard said this research shows areas that contain water or may have otherwise been amenable to life forms millions of years ago.

“If you want to resolve the big question about life on Mars, you want to go to the right places and get samples,” Mustard, associate professor of geological sciences, said. “The new research tells us where some of those places may be.”

Mustard is part of a French-led team studying data from OMEGA, a spectrometer aboard Mars Express that uses visible and infrared light to map the surface composition of the planet.

Using the OMEGA data:

* Researchers found a diverse and complex mix of surface materials: silicates, ices and frosts, and hydrated minerals and sediments. Some areas, such as Terra Meridiani, where the Opportunity rover now operates, were rich in acidic sulfates. Rocks in other places, for example around the Syrtis Major volcanic plateau, were richer in clay and hydrated minerals. These are more neutral in pH, and thus more likely to support life.

* Researchers found kieserite, gypsum and polyhydrated sulfates – all sulfate minerals that contain water in their crystal structure – in canyons and buttes around the planet. Mustard said this shows that water was common and widespread during the first billion years of Mars’ roughly 4.6-billion-year history. These minerals were even found inside Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system.

* Researchers found the rock-forming mineral olivine as well as low- and high-calcium pyroxene across the Mars surface. Scientists expected to find hydrated minerals in the northern lowlands because of a theory that an ancient ocean once covered these rolling plains. But OMEGA data showed that the northern lowlands are composed of volcanic rock not altered by water, making the ocean theory less likely.

Based on these findings, Mustard said Syrtis Major, Valles Marineris and Terra Meridiani would all be strong candidates for rock and soil sampling for future Mars missions.

Mustard has designed a next-generation spectrometer that will be on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which NASA plans to launch in August.

The European Space Agency and NASA funded the Science Express work.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Brown University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

Brown University. "Life On Mars? New Data Reveal Places To Search." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 February 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050223165359.htm>.
Brown University. (2005, February 24). Life On Mars? New Data Reveal Places To Search. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050223165359.htm
Brown University. "Life On Mars? New Data Reveal Places To Search." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050223165359.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This

More Space & Time News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

NASA (July 18, 2014) Apollo 11 yesterday, Next Giant Leap tomorrow, Science instruments for Europa mission, and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins