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Water on Mars Mystery Continues, Carbon Dioxide Too Low, Scientists Say

Image: Water on Mars Mystery Continues, Carbon Dioxide Too Low, Scientists Say

Mars (Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 06 Feb 2017 07:59 PM

The early atmosphere on Mars did not have enough carbon dioxide to support liquid water, new research shows – deepening the mystery on how the Red Planet could have been once filled with lakes and oceans.

New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences goes over data from the rover Curiosity's analysis of 3.5 billion-year-old rocks from Gale Crater, where scientists think an ancient lake was once located, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The rover's X-ray diffraction instrument, which identifies the minerals present in a rock sample, did not turn up any carbonates; with that evidence and the amount of other minerals present, researchers then figured Mars' atmosphere must have had very little carbon dioxide.

"What we see is a lot lower than the amount needed to produce the greenhouse effect to have lakes and rivers around at that time," Thomas Bristow, a research scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and lead author on the paper, told the Journal.

An atmosphere with plenty of carbon dioxide would be the simplest answer, Bristow added, but "it doesn't seem that easy solution will work in this case."

One answer could be brief and repeated warm periods in which water melted, Paul Niles, a planetary scientist at NASA's Johnson Space Center, who was not involved in the research, told the Journal.

Other gases might also have contributed to warming Mars in the absence of carbon dioxide, Raymond Arvidson, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis and scientist on the Curiosity and Opportunity rover teams, told the Journal.

"Let's not be Earth chauvinists," and assume carbon dioxide must be important on Mars because it is here, he told the Journal.

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The early atmosphere on Mars did not have enough carbon dioxide to support liquid water, new research shows – deepening the mystery on how the Red Planet could have been once filled with lakes and oceans.
water, on, mars, mystery, little, carbon dioxide
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2017-59-06
Monday, 06 Feb 2017 07:59 PM
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