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Is there life on Mars?

My notes on an interesting NOVA program on Life on Mars.

Two robots were sent out in 2007 and one landed in an area that showed stratified layers of rock formation that can only be formed by water.

They bore a hole in one of the rocks and done chemical analysis that showed it contained 40% sulfate salt which can only be produced by interaction of soil and water. That clinched it: WATER WAS ONCE ON MARS.

Also found were other ‘evaporite’ chemicals that are produced after they evaporate from a water mix.

Also found silica (sand and glass) with a concentration that required a lot of heat, suggesting there may have been hot springs (hot water and steam) and may have contained bacteria perhaps. (Bacteria can survive in very hot temperatures.)

The water found was very salty and acidic (Sulferic acid) for life. The Opportunity Rover (the other robot lander) found that in these rock layers the salt concentration increased as you went up the layers (i.e., in time), so that the amount of water decreased.

It appears Mars evaporated all or most of its water.

Mars’ current atmosphere is less than 1% as dense as that of Earth’s. And it appears that the Martian atmosphere was blown away by the Sun’s solar wind. Mars has no magnetosphere (i.e. magnetic field) to protect its atmosphere (as the Earth’s magnetosphere does).

Earth’s magnetosphere is created by a dynamo in its core comprised of a spinning molten core which generates its magnetic field.

Mars is 1/10-th the mass of Earth, and that means its gravitational force much weaker than Earth’s to keep its atmosphere.

Today, Mars is covered with pockets of small magnetic fields on its surface.

Not clear that Mars has a molten core. But there are some very large volcanoes (now dead and inactive) on Mars which indicate presence of a molten core at some point in its past.

Current Theory: An asteroid smashed into Mars and caused it to lose its molten core and magnetic field, and this prevented Mars from forming an atmosphere.

The Phoenix Mars Lander landed on Mars’ northern pole and discovered evidence of ice. The Phoenix dug down 2 inches beneath the surface and uncovered some white stuff. After two days it disappeared. The conclusion was that it was ice that evaporated. That was another evidence of water on Mars.

So far: no evidence of life on Mars. But other interesting things were discovered along the way (some by serendipity).

Categories: Life, Science
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