Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Liquid water on mars? Odd pic shows 'overwhelming' evidence

A photo from NASA's Phoenix Mars rover shows "a material splashed up" on one of is landing struts forming small "blobs." (NY Times) Could these little blobs be water? "Some of the scientists working on the mission are asserting that that is exactly what they were." But there is controversy.

Phoenix mission scientists were
pretty sure they had discovered frozen water on Mars when the rover happened to uncover an unknown white substance that mysteriously disappeared (water may have vaporized).

But how could there be liquid water? One possibility: salt. "Scientists believe that salts may have lowered the freezing temperature of the Martian water droplets to perhaps minus 90 degrees.

So did the lander go ripping through a puddle that "splashed" the water onto it? No. The lander's dizzying
top speed is a mere .1 MPH

(By the way, Pound360 would like to mention how cool it is that you can enter "convert 2 inches per second into miles per hour" into a Google search box and get the answer. Did you just yawn? Come on! We expect it to convert, say, "meters to yards" or "kilometers into miles", but "inches per second into miles per hour"? That's cool. And sure, the fact that we're so fascinated by this shows you A) how serious a batch of nerds we are and B) why we blog about science and not the latest Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan stuff… which would probably earn us money. Anyway…)

A second reasonable possibility for those blobs on the rover: heat from the rover's landing. It could be "Phoenix’s thrusters splashed a pocket of brine from just below the surface to the landing strut."

A third possibility: the scientists who think the pic shows water are nuts.

"There are simpler explanations," said one NASA/JPL scientist. Thought the Times pieced didn't explain those. Furthermore, the theories proposed for how those blobs could be water are "flat-out wrong for these materials" said the dissenting scientist.

No comments:

Pound360 Archive

About Me

My photo
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.