Monday, March 24, 2008

Mars Covered with (Table) Salt

NASA’s Odyssey rover has discovered the southern hemisphere of Mars is covered in table-variety salt (sodium chloride), reports the BBC. Kind of.

The headline of the BBC piece reads, “Mars is 'covered in table salt.'” Seems like we have an official discovery here, right? Not exactly. Note the quotation marks in the headline. Then, when you get into the piece, it reads, “A Nasa probe has found signs that the southern hemisphere is dusted with chloride mineral, perhaps "table salt."”

Okay, so there are “signs” that “perhaps” there’s “salt.” Why does the BBC even reporting this if they’re so skeptical?

Odyssey's tracks in the Martian dust (Photo Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Anyhow, let’s just pretend it’s actually salt for a moment. Real salt. Not “salt” salt. The finding, says one astroscientist (I just made that word up) is a “double-edge sword” in the search for life.

Andrew Knoll of Harvard’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences explained to the BBC, "Water is the first sign that an environment might have been habitable, but waters that precipitate table salt on Mars would have been much saltier than any waters known to support microbial populations on Earth."

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.