Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Life on mars? Mars Rover Opportunity finds some of the necessary conditions once existed

Date:
May 4, 2012
Source:
Universitaet Tübingen
Summary:
Late last year, the NASA Mars Rover Opportunity found what appeared to be veins of gypsum when examining the edge of the crater dubbed “Endeavour.” Gypsum is formed in water at a temperature lower than 60°C. Its presence on Mars indicates that conditions conducive to life have existed there at least temporarily. The rock of the crater edge is similar to suevite, a rock consisting partly of melted material which is typically found at meteor impact sites.

This color view of a mineral vein comes from the panoramic camera on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. The vein is about 1.5 cm wide and about 45 cm long. Opportunity examined it in November 2011 and found it to be rich in calcium and sulfur, possibly the calcium-sulfate mineral gypsum.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

Tübingen Geoscientist Dr. Christian Schröder is part of a team which today revealed exciting new information garnered from information sent back from Mars. Late last year, the NASA Mars Rover Opportunity found what appeared to be veins of gypsum when examining the edge of the crater dubbed “Endeavour.” Gypsum is formed in water at a temperature lower than 60°C. Its presence on Mars indicates that conditions conducive to life have existed there at least temporarily. The rock of the crater edge is similar to suevite, a rock consisting partly of melted material which is typically found at meteor impact sites. The results of the study, led by Steve Squyres at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York have just been published in Science.

Christian Schröder’s research at Tübingen’s Center for Applied Geoscience focuses on the biochemistry of iron minerals. Since the start of the NASA Mars Exploration Rover in 2003, he has been a member of the scientific team responsible for (among other things) the deployment of the Rover’s alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS), which was developed at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and is being further developed under the direction of Ralf Gellert at the University of Guelph in Canada. The APXS analyses elements – making it possible to identify the gypsum vein and the nature of the surrounding rock.

Opportunity has been trundling along the Martian soil for eight years now, and has covered more than 33 km. One of its goals has been the crater Endeavour, which is 22 km across and makes geological layers accessible which are older than the sulfur-rich sandstone surrounding Opportuni-ty’s landing site. Along the way, Schröder helped to examine loose rocks on the surface. Some of them turned out to be meteorites, while others were flung there out of impact craters – although not out of “Endeavour,” according to the APXS analyses.

Gypsum, with the chemical formula CaSO4∙2H2O, only forms in water below 60°C. At a higher tem-perature, other minerals, such as anhydrite, CaSO4, would also be present. That means that condi-tions conducive to life once existed on the edge of the crater. Water circulated through cracks in the rock after the crater was made. Had it been high in sulfur, it would probably have led to the formation of the sulfur-rich sandstone found around the landing site.

The crater is of a similar size and makeup to the edges of the Nördlinger Ries crater in southern Germany, a famous example of a crater made by the impact of a large meteor nearly 15 million years ago. Suevite, one of the impactite category of rocks, is composed of ground and broken rock, silicates made molten by the impact as well as minerals only created at high pressures and temper-atures. Suevite was first identified at the Nördlinger Ries and the name comes from the Latin word for Swabia, the region where it is located in southern Germany. The Mars crater “Endeavour” was formed more than 3.7 billion years ago.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. S. W. Squyres, R. E. Arvidson, J. F. Bell, F. Calef, B. C. Clark, B. A. Cohen, L. A. Crumpler, P. A. de Souza, W. H. Farrand, R. Gellert, J. Grant, K. E. Herkenhoff, J. A. Hurowitz, J. R. Johnson, B. L. Jolliff, A. H. Knoll, R. Li, S. M. McLennan, D. W. Ming, D. W. Mittlefehldt, T. J. Parker, G. Paulsen, M. S. Rice, S. W. Ruff, C. Schroder, A. S. Yen, K. Zacny. Ancient Impact and Aqueous Processes at Endeavour Crater, Mars. Science, 2012; 336 (6081): 570 DOI: 10.1126/science.1220476

Cite This Page:

Universitaet Tübingen. "Life on mars? Mars Rover Opportunity finds some of the necessary conditions once existed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120504110026.htm>.
Universitaet Tübingen. (2012, May 4). Life on mars? Mars Rover Opportunity finds some of the necessary conditions once existed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120504110026.htm
Universitaet Tübingen. "Life on mars? Mars Rover Opportunity finds some of the necessary conditions once existed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120504110026.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) — Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) — The smallest of Saturn's main moons, Mimas, wobbles as it orbits. Research reveals it might be due to a global ocean underneath its icy surface. Video provided by Newsy
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:

More Coverage


Paydirt at 8-Year-Old Mars Rover's 'new Landing Site'

May 3, 2012 — A report details discoveries Opportunity made in its first four months at the rim of Endeavour Crater, including key findings reported at a geophysics conference in late 2011. Opportunity completed ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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