Meridiani Planum: 'Drenched'

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2004/02mar_meridianiwater.htm
Meridiani Planum: "Drenched" NASA Science News
March 2, 2004 Long ago, parts of Mars were soaked in liquid water, say scientists analyzing data from NASA's Mars rover Opportunity.
March 2, 2004: Some rocks at Opportunity's landing site in Meridiani Planum on Mars were once soaked in liquid water. Members of the Mars Exploration Rovers' international science team presented the evidence today to news reporters at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
"Liquid water once flowed through these rocks. It changed their texture, and it changed their chemistry," said Cornell University's Steve Squyres, the principal investigator for the science instruments on Opportunity and its twin, Spirit. "We've been able to read the tell-tale clues the water left behind, giving us confidence in that conclusion."
Here are some of the clues that water formerly pervaded an outcropping of rocks where Opportunity has been working:
(1) The rover's alpha particle X-ray spectrometer found lots of sulfur in the outcrop. Related clues from that instrument and the miniature thermal emission spectrometer suggest the sulfur is in the form of sulfate salts (similar to Epsom salts). On Earth, rocks containing so much salt either formed in water or, after formation, were soaked in water a long time.
[see caption]
Above: These spectra show that a rock dubbed "McKittrick" near the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity's landing site at Meridiani Planum, Mars, possesses the highest concentration of sulfur yet observed on Mars. [More]
(2) The rover's Moessbauer spectrometer detected jarosite, a hydrated iron sulfate mineral that could result from the target rock spending time in an acidic lake or acidic hot springs environment.
(3) Pictures from Opportunity's panoramic camera and microscopic imager show many thin, flat holes--"about the size of pennies," says Squyres--in an outcrop rock selected for close-up examination. These holes, or "vugs," match the distinctive appearance of Earth-rock vugs that form where crystals of salt minerals grow inside rocks that sit in briny water then disappear by eroding or dissolving.
The cameras have revealed spheres the size of BBs embedded in outcrop rocks. Researchers call them "blueberries"-- although they're not blue, they're gray. The spherules are not concentrated at particular layers within the rock, as they would be if they originated outside the rock and were deposited onto accumulating layers while the rock was forming. Instead, the spherules are scattered. This means they are probably what geologists call "concretions" that formed from accumulation of minerals coming out of solution inside a porous, water-soaked rock.
(5) Some of the spherules in pictures from the microscope appear to have stripes that correspond to layering of the matrix rock around them. This would be consistent with the interpretation that the spherules are concretions that formed inside a wet rock.
There is still much to learn: When was the area wet? And how long did the wet conditions last? How was the water collected--e.g., in a salty lake or sea? How deep was the water? Scientists and engineers plan to keep Opportunity busy in the days ahead looking for more clues that might answer some of these questions.
Visit http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov for the latest information about Spirit and Opportunity.
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Planum
and
I'm guessing that since they didn't specify a time frame, "once" means billions of years ago?
While this is interesting news, did NASA really think that the general public would be so excited that Mars "once" had water that they felt they needed to call a special news conference to announce it?
Scientists are funny critters. ;)
How about a little information on what's happening there *now*?
--
-Randy (OF)
'Up the stairs.
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RandyW wrote:

You either "get it" and are interested or you don't. Not much can be done about it either way. As far as a political motive for the press conference: they achieved their mission objective as stated prior to launch. They have every right to crow about that, regardless if you think anyone out there is interested or not.
--
Greg Crinklaw
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they
When you consider the problems at the beginning with the Spirit Rover, it's amazing that they have learned as much as they have.
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snipped-for-privacy@george.net says...

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Although I wouldn't count out the Spirit site yet, I get a strong feeling that as far as sedimentary structures are concerned, it may be a dud. I hope I end up eating those words. Even so, there is a lot of unique geology that can be conducted there. After all, it is another planet.
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Balls. Seen one planet, you've seen em all. What's with this accretion theory?
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feeling
geology
Ok, let's test your theory. What makes Mars just like Neptune?
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It's big and round like your napper, nut.
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dud. I

Wrong answer. The correct answer is that Mars is nothing like Neptune, dork. One is a rocky world and the other is a gas giant. Maybe you should throw out that 1940s vintage popular science book you cling to with glee and get an update.
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I wonder. Seems like they have more hurdles in the standing-water direction than in the "bottom up" direction, because standing water would lead to extraordinary claims that would be really newsworthy. Namely, that since there is no clear basin at Meridiani to hold the water (unlike at Gusev crater), a vast ocean would be implied. Which would imply a radically different atmosphere where such surface water could be stable. Which probably means greenhouse effect and billions of years of warm wetness. Hold the presses!
If the water flowed up from below and evaporated at the surface, then no ocean is required, no radically different atmosphere, and also would be consistent with the localized region of the hematite. Like a meteor hit and steamed up the neighborhood for a couple thousand years. Bang, ouch, hiss--so like Mars, that nasty planet.
Joe
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March 3, 2004
Greg Crinklaw wrote:

And from the evidence of your posts, you still don't get it.

Spoken by a true crackpot.

Wow, politics and science, the dynamic duo.

And you have every right to publish your retraction here.
We won't be holding our breath, crackpot.
Thomas Lee Elifritz http://elifritz.members.atlantic.net
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I think Greg was referring to a more general phenomenon. A science writer once told me about the percentages of people who pay attention to this kind of stuff. Something like 50% (at least) of the (US) population simply doesn't care about space exploration. Period. They don't care about whether Mars was wet or dry, they won't read newspapers stories about Mars or space in general, etc. Of the remainder, most of the people only will read the occasional front-page story. The number of people who care at the level of following the news intensely and are willing to wonder about whether Mars was once wet or dry is actually fairly small.
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writes:

But that has always been the way of exploration. It has never been easy or cheap. And most people didn't care that there was another continent on the other side of the Atlantic ocean until it became necessary to care.
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George wrote:

Yes, and most people didn't care about the advances in physics in the early 20th century, yet it ended WWII and was at the root of the fears of the cold war. Most people just don't have time for science in their daily lives, but they realize that it *is* important and I am always amazed at how many can be interested if you simply engage them and share your own wonder. It's the culture of the mindless TV media who are mostly incapable of engaging anyone about science and so give up on it entirely that I despise.
--
Greg Crinklaw
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writes:

or
the
The problem is that they don't pay well enough to hire REAL scientists to write for them. But that is my own opinion.
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George wrote:

Or that they teach the 'real scientists' how to write and communicate their findings well in their native language, much less another. "Science speak" is quite another language, you know.
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writes:

easy
to
This is quite true. I used to work at a "Science Museum", where the editor of the monthly newsletter was more concerned with being politically correct, than whether an article contained any actual science.
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writes:

or
the
Is "The Mindless TV Media Culture" capable of engageing anyone about anything, much less Science?

Ralph Nesbitt
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writes:

easy
on
I think they can, but it is simply not profitible for the general media to do so. However, the success of media outlets such as the cable channel Science TV is proof that there is a thirst for knowledge in the general population. Unfortunately, it is not being nutured enough to make a difference to the rest of the networks.
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