Feeds

Puddles on Mars, aerospace boffin claims

NASA to allocate wellies budget?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Pictures taken two years ago by Mars rover Opportunity might show puddles of liquid water on the Martian surface, according to New Scientist.

The possibility was raised in a report, not yet seen by El Reg, detailing a fresh analysis of the images. Along with Michael Hecht from NASA's Jet Propopulsion Laboratory, Ron Levin, a physicist who works in advanced image processing at Lockheed Martin in Arizona, proposes that micro-environments might exist on the Martian surface that would allow water to remain liquid.

This is a bold claim. The Martian atmosphere is not much more substantial than a hard vacuum. In such an environment, liquid water would evaporate or sublime away. But Levin and his colleagues are convinced that friendlier places might exist on the red planet.

Levin told New Scientist that he thought safe zones could exist inside natural depressions, such as a crater. During Martian summer with the sun at its zenith, the temperature could sustain liquid water, and he argues that briny water would be even more robust.

While it was exploring the Endurance crater, a region that would meet Levin's hypothetical safe zone criteria, Opportunity sent back pictures of what look like puddles.

"The surface is incredibly smooth, and the edges are in a plane and all at the same altitude. If they were ice or some other material, they'd show wear and tear over the surface, there would be rubble or sand or something," Levin said, describing the images.

Phil Christensen of Arizona State University, developer of the Mars rovers' mini-Thermal Emission Spectrometers, told the publication that although very specific conditions could allow for it, he thought it unlikely that liquid water would exist on the surface.

The ideal conditions would be if there were absolutely no wind. This might allow a layer of vapour to build above the puddles, stopping them from subliming or evaporating too quickly, he said.

"The problem is, there are winds on Mars… In the real world, I think it's virtually impossible."

Levin is undaunted. He says a simple drill test would settle the question one way or another.

New Scientist has pictures here. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.