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NASA's Curiosity Rover Collected Water Data From Mars' Gale Crater

First Posted: Jun 09, 2016 06:00 AM EDT
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NASA's Curiosity rover settled in the northern part of the 154-kilometer-wide Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012. It is equipped with Dynamic Albedo of Neuron (DAN) instrument and other tools for measuring, imaging, and sampling as wells as looking for signs of chemicals essential for life. They also sought the planet's past climate.

In a new study printed in the Journal of Geophysical Research, DAN instrument on lodge the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover identified ranges of water equivalent hydrogen (WEH) and chlorine-equivalent concentrations of 1.5-2.5 wt. % and 0.6-2 wt. %, respectively. DAN instrument perceived an overall decrease in both WEH and chlorine-equivalent concentration measured over the sand and loose rocks of the Smooth Hummocky unit, which is a unit composed mainly of sand and loose rocks.

Likewise, it measured the WEH and the chlorine-equivalent concentrations in the well-exposed sedimentary bedrock of the Kimberley formation. It reveals fluctuations with a stratigraphic position. These observations were designed to evaluate the adaptability of bulk hydrogen and neutron-absorbing elements, described as chlorine-equivalent concentration, in the geologic members of the Kimberley area.

According to EOS, the hydrogen that was observed by DAN is expected to be bound in water. This is based on the amount observed and the studies from other Curiosity instruments. This includes the soil samples. The authors said that this implies that the water equivalent of this hydrogen makes up 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent of the weight of the subsurface soils in the Kimberley formation. This hydrogen is possibly kept in small quantities as absorbed water in pores or in clay minerals shaped during a warmer and wetter period of Mar's past.

DAN also identified chlorine variations in the Kimberley formation. Chlorine is important because it is associated with water transport, volcanic activity, chemical weathering, and hydrothermal activity. It is also linked to complex water history of the ancient lake. On the other hand, DAN spotted more water-associated hydrogen to the surface than deeper down. This is contrary to what geological principles predict. Martian geology studies could show the reasons for these variants. The measurements detected by DAN complement with those made by other Curiosity instruments for the similar study.

 

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