Tags: curiosity | rover | ancient | water | martian | rock

Curiosity Rover Finds Signs of Ancient Water in Martian Rock

Image: Curiosity Rover Finds Signs of Ancient Water in Martian Rock
In this a self-portrait of the Mars rover Curiosity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 10:38 AM

The Curiosity rover drilled into a chunk of Martian rock and found signs of ancient water inside it, a researcher at the American Geophysical Union told a convention in San Francisco on Monday.

According to Space.com, such discoveries by NASA's Curiosity are helping scientist determine how the red planet lost its surface water over more than a billion years.

"It's really interesting that our measurements from Curiosity of gases extracted from ancient rocks can tell us about loss of water from Mars," said Paul Mahaffy, a Curiosity scientist.

A statement from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab on Tuesday said Curiosity detected a variety of Martian organic chemicals in the powder drilled from the rock dubbed Cumberland, the first definitive detection of organics in surface materials of Mars.

Scientists said the organics could have formed in Mars or been brought to the planet by a meteorite. Organic molecules are considered by scientists as the chemical building blocks of life, although they can exist without the presence of life, said NASA.

"We will keep working on the puzzles these findings present," said John Grotzinger, Curiosity project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California.

"Can we learn more about the active chemistry causing such fluctuations in the amount of methane in the atmosphere? Can we choose rock targets where identifiable organics have been preserved?" said Grotzinger.

The Washington Post's Rachel Feltman wrote that Mars would have needed to have a much warmer climate and heavier atmosphere than it does now to have water on its surface. Researchers are still confounded by how the planet's current atmosphere was formed and if, or why it changed, noted the Post.

Scientists believe that Mars Gale Crater was filled with sediment from rivers that once flowed on the planet and was eventually eroded by wind helping form its shape, noted the Post.

"New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground," wrote Feltman. "That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time."

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The Curiosity rover drilled into a chunk of Martian rock and found signs of ancient water inside it, a researcher at the American Geophysical Union told a convention in San Francisco on Monday.
curiosity, rover, ancient, water, martian, rock
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2014-38-17
Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 10:38 AM
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