Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA Scientists Find Evidence For Liquid Water On A Frozen Early Mars

Date:
June 2, 2009
Source:
NASA
Summary:
Scientists have modeled freezing conditions on Mars to test whether liquid water could have been present to form the surface features of the Martian landscape. They report that fluids loaded with dissolved minerals containing elements such as silicon, iron, magnesium, potassium and aluminum, can remain in a liquid state at temperatures well below freezing.

Evidence suggests flowing water formed the rivers and gullies on the Mars surface, even though surface temperatures were below freezing. Dissolved minerals in liquid water may be the reason.
Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

NASA scientists modeled freezing conditions on Mars to test whether liquid water could have been present to form the surface features of the Martian landscape.

Researchers report that fluids loaded with dissolved minerals containing elements such as silicon, iron, magnesium, potassium and aluminum, can remain in a liquid state at temperatures well below freezing. The results of this research appear in the May 21 issue of Nature magazine entitled "Stability Against Freezing of Aqueous Solutions on Early Mars."

"We found that the salts in water solutions can reduce the melting point of water, which may help explain how liquid water existed in a frozen Martian environment," said Alberto Fairén, a space scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. and the lead author of the study.

To understand what formed the surface features on Mars, scientists have focused on the early Martian conditions. Was early Mars warm and wet, or cold and dry? Surface features throughout most of the Martian landscape suggest the presence of water ponds ranging from seas to lakes, and rivers and gullies formed by flowing water, which imply that early Mars was wet.

But there also is some evidence that suggests that Mars may have been permanently cold, with global temperatures well below the freezing point of pure water. To study the 'liquidity' of water on Mars, climate modelers first simulated various concentrations of greenhouse gases in its atmosphere. They found that these gases cannot efficiently raise the surface temperature above freezing.

A greenhouse atmosphere produced by carbon dioxide and water would have been saturated well below freezing. In addition, the amount of methane needed to raise the surface temperature above freezing, implies the planet had a terrestrial-like biological source for its methane supply, according to previous investigations.

Scientists then took another approach and looked at water solutions containing weathering basalts, similar to those seen at the Mars landing sites. They calculated these fluids' freezing points and evaporative processes. Results showed that a significant amount of weathering fluids containing silicon, iron, magnesium, calcium, chloride, sodium, potassium and aluminum remain in the liquid at temperatures well below freezing.

In addition, they studied the minerals that precipitated in the liquid solutions over time. These minerals are similar to those actually found on the Martian surface. Scientists concluded that salty liquid water on Mars may explain the stability of fluids against freezing on the Martian surface at temperatures below 0°C.

"Our goal was to learn how a combination of different processes of evaporation and freezing affect the freezing point of a hypothetical Martian solution. We also wanted to see how the liquid phases formed and destabilized over the evolution of different solutions," added Alfonso Davila, a co-author of the paper at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Alberto G. Fairén, Alfonso F. Davila, Luis Gago-Duport, Ricardo Amils & Christopher P. McKay. Stability against freezing of aqueous solutions on early Mars. Nature, 2009; 459 (7245): 401 DOI: 10.1038/nature07978

Cite This Page:

NASA. "NASA Scientists Find Evidence For Liquid Water On A Frozen Early Mars." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090602082638.htm>.
NASA. (2009, June 2). NASA Scientists Find Evidence For Liquid Water On A Frozen Early Mars. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090602082638.htm
NASA. "NASA Scientists Find Evidence For Liquid Water On A Frozen Early Mars." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090602082638.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.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

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