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Fraser
2006-Oct-23, 08:56 PM
A researcher from Queen's University has uncovered a mineral that could help explain the mountainous landscape on Mars. Dr. Ron Peterson found that solution of epsomite (aka Epsom Salts) will crystallize after several days of sub-zero temperatures. If the crystals are rapidly melted, they create the familiar gullies and channels we see on Mars. Water might have interacted with Martian chemicals millions of years ago; when the surface layer melted, it produced the unusual surface features we see today.

Read the full blog entry (http://www.universetoday.com/2006/10/23/mineral-discovery-could-explain-martian-landscape/)

AlfaCentavra
2006-Oct-23, 11:33 PM
http://foto.mail.ru/mail/glip92/2/i-34.jpg

qraal
2006-Oct-24, 10:38 AM
Hi Fraser

An example of real garage science. No doubt there's salts aplenty in the Martian soil, but how wet does Mars have to get for his scenario to work? Could the salt-water layers have been mobilised by localised geothermal heating?

Adam

John Mendenhall
2006-Oct-24, 02:38 PM
Epsom salts?!

Dr, Peterson has a point. We should keep in mind that we are not talking about Earth-like standard temperature and pressure. Liquid organics on Titan have made just fine channels and lakes.

Regarding wetness, didn't I read somewhere that the atmosphere on Mars is mostly saturated? Let me post this whilst I do a little checking.

Leafguy
2006-Oct-24, 05:25 PM
John,
It might be hard to find since Mars bdoesn't have a large atmosphere to begin with. Although it is up for debate because of clouds found high above. I doubt at this current point in time that you would find much saturation is Mars' atmosphere. However, I think in the not to distant past that this may have been a different scenario

John Mendenhall
2006-Oct-24, 07:38 PM
You're right, I couldn't find much useful. The Martian atmosphere is about 95% carbon dioxide, and about 0.05% water vapor. Since there is no magnetic field, the solar wind impinges directly on the atmosphere (ionosphere), and strips it away slowly. As the water vapor is lighter than the CO2, I bet it's lost faster. Overall, a bad situation - at least for we Earthlings.

Leafguy
2006-Oct-25, 06:37 AM
Lol John,
Yeah since the water vapour is lost faster, it doesn't make for much saturation. Although it might be possible in certain areas around the poles if the caps still melt, but I doubt it. Probably hasn't happened for millenia

Torsten
2007-Nov-18, 06:57 PM
I searched, but found nothing else on the site so . . . . .

At the time Fraser posted this, Peterson had published a paper in Geology (abstract (http://geology.geoscienceworld.org/cgi/content/abstract/34/11/957)) on a possible new mineral species (pdf describing it here (http://geol.queensu.ca/shared/news_graphics/marsmineral.pdf)), the search for which seems to have been inspired by a paper on observations from Opportunity's microscopic imager published in Science (abstract (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/306/5702/1727?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&volume=306&firstpage=1727&resourcetype=HWCIT)) a couple of years earlier.

So what did Peterson do next? He went looking for it on Earth, and found it in here in BC last winter (press release (http://qnc.queensu.ca/story_loader.php?id=4702546b59667)). It has been named Meridianiite in a letter submitted to American Mineralogist (http://www.minsocam.org/msa/ammin/toc/Abstracts/2007_Abstracts/Oct07_Abstracts/Peterson_p1756_07.pdf).

I like that kind of persistence.

JonClarke
2007-Nov-18, 08:51 PM
Lol John,
Yeah since the water vapour is lost faster, it doesn't make for much saturation. Although it might be possible in certain areas around the poles if the caps still melt, but I doubt it. Probably hasn't happened for millenia

Mars has H2O clouds, fogs, and frost, all indicators of local supersaturation.

Jon

JonClarke
2007-Nov-18, 08:54 PM
An example of real garage science. No doubt there's salts aplenty in the Martian soil, but how wet does Mars have to get for his scenario to work? Could the salt-water layers have been mobilised by localised geothermal heating?

Since Mars has abundant evidence of liquid water past and present at a range of scales the answer is "wet enough".

Jon

Fortunate
2007-Nov-20, 05:09 AM
Here is an article from 1999 titled "Mars Bathing in Epsom Salts."

http://www.astrobio.net/cgi-bin/h2p.cgi?sid=1234&ext=.pdf

Here is an account of the announcement from a few years ago that the Opportunity Rover had confirmed that Mars had once had a good deal of surface water.

http://www.news.cornell.edu/Chronicle/04/3.4.04/Mars.water.html


Squyres credited Opportunity's Cornell-developed RAT (rock abrasion tool) with grinding away enough rock surface to find abundant sulfur in the form of sulfate salts, probably similar to common drugstore Epsom salts, that are a telltale sign of liquid water.

My bold.