The Curiosity rover detects oxygen behaving strangely on Mars

14 Novembre, 2019, 14:09 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Jezero Delta

First, there was the business with the disappearing, reappearing methane.

When Mars was warmer than it is today, the lake inside of Jezero crater may have been habitable, hosting basic microbial life similar to bacteria. Because it landed in Gale Crater in 2012, the Curiosity rover has been finding out the Martian floor beneath its wheels to be taught extra concerning the planet's historical past.

The changes of oxygen concentrations in the Martian air baffled scientists as the gas Earth creatures use to breathe behaves in a way that can not be explained by any known chemical processes. Water may be the lifeblood of our planet, but it's unclear whether Mars ever supported (or still supports) life. The data show that the air inside Gale Crater is 95% carbon dioxide (CO2) by volume, 2.6% molecular nitrogen (N2), 1.9% argon (Ar), 0.16% molecular oxygen (O2) and 0.06% carbon monoxide (CO).

Over the course of the year, it is said that the atmospheric pressure in air changes. This occurs when the carbon dioxide fuel freezes in winter on the poles, inflicting the air strain to decrease.

When CO2 is re-released from the polar caps as spring and summer returns, it mixes with the other gases to raise the air pressure again.

Researchers came all over the amount of oxygen within the air rose all over spring and summer season by as grand as 30% then dropped aid to phases predicted yb known chemistry within the autumn. This freaky pattern kept repeating, showing that something unexplainable was producing oxygen and then removing it from the Martian atmosphere.

Scientists considered the possibility that Carbon dioxide or water molecules could have released oxygen when they broke apart in the atmosphere, leading to the short-lived rise. The process whereby solar radiation breaks apart oxygen and it dissipates into space is likewise too slow.

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Oxygen and methane shall be produced biologically from things adore microbes and abiotically from chemistry linked to water and rocks.

Now, Martian soil does contain a lot of oxygen. "It has to be some chemical source and sink that we can't yet account for". In June, his sample analysis instrument Mars has detected a surprising spike in methane gas that puzzled NASA scientists.

'The incontrovertible truth that the oxygen behaviour is no longer perfectly repeatable each and every season makes us deem that it be no longer a controversy that has to elevate out with atmospheric dynamics.

This puzzle is reminiscent of a similar mystery about methane levels in the crater: SAM previously found that the typically indiscernible levels of methane sometimes increase by about 60% in the summer and plummet at other random times, for unknown reasons.

We don't, as yet, have any evidence that there is life on Mars, but nor can it be ruled out as a cause. Instead, the gases are likely produced by chemical processes related to water and rock. "We have not been able to come up with one process yet that produces the amount of oxygen we need, but we think it has to be something in the surface soil that changes seasonally because there aren't enough available oxygen atoms in the atmosphere to create the behavior we see", said Timothy McConnochie, co-author of the paper and an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland.

"Using a technique we developed that helps us find rare, hard-to-detect mineral phases in data taken from orbiting spacecraft, we found two outcrops of hydrated silica within Jezero crater", said the study's lead author, Jesse Tarnas, a PhD student at Brown University in Rhode Island, US.

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