No, those aren’t animal tracks on Mars


A United Kingdom-based researcher claims he is seen proof of historic animal tracks on Mars, however do not get too excited. The options he is speaking about are extensively documented by NASA as fascinating crystal shapes that doubtless shaped in water way back.

A media frenzy ensued after the scientist mentioned he noticed proof of branching, twisting options in photos from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover. “If you happen to have a look at the photographs extra intently … this really has options in it which might be harking back to hint fossils,” mentioned Barry DiGregorio, a analysis fellow on the College of Buckingham, in an interview with the Each day Star printed Sunday (March four).

DiGregorio wrote the books “Mars: The Dwelling Planet” (Frog Books, 1997) and “The Microbes of Mars” (Amazon Digital Providers LLC, 2011), each of which declare to point out proof of Mars life. It isn’t the primary time he is made these claims. He instructed in January that a few of Curiosity’s photos of the constructions remind him of Ordovician hint fossils. On the time, Curiosity was taking a look at unusual tubular constructions. Some individuals claimed these formations got here from burrowing creatures. 

NASA, nonetheless, attributed the shapes to crystal progress. [The Search for Life on Mars (A Photo Timeline)]

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Curiosity discovered the options on Mount Sharp, in a zone greater than 1,000 vertical toes (300 meters) above the rover’s touchdown web site on the ground of Gale Crater.

“After we checked out these items shut up, they’re linear, however they are not tubular within the sense of being cylinders; they’re really fairly angular,” mentioned Curiosity mission scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a interview in January.

“They’ve type of a sq. or a parallelogram kind of cross part and type at angles to one another when there’s a number of of them collectively,” he added. “And all of that is fairly harking back to crystalline progress.”

The crystals’ historical past doubtless does embody liquid water, Vasavada mentioned. He added that the crew was contemplating two eventualities, each of which require water. The primary means that the tubes are crystals themselves, and the second says that the crystals created a mould within the rock that sedimentary supplies later crammed.

In a separate interview in January, Vasavada added that it’s tough to definitively say if the options are organic in origin, however that’s not a conclusion NASA would leap to shortly. “That is fairly difficult on Earth to tell apart these two issues with out with the ability to put these items right into a lab to search for the presence of organics,” Vasavada mentioned. “We’ve a really restricted functionality total to grasp whether or not one thing is organic or not.”

In mid-February, NASA mentioned Curiosity found tiny, darkish bumps that look just like options that type round gypsum crystals in drying lakes on Earth. “These [types of features] can type when salts turn out to be concentrated in water, akin to in an evaporating lake,” Sanjeev Gupta, a Curiosity science crew member at Imperial Faculty London, mentioned in an announcement from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 

NASA continues to be making an attempt to be taught when the crystal options shaped, in relation to when sediments round them piled up. The crystals might need shaped underground (after the sediments have been arduous rock) or in moist sediment, whereas the lake was drying.

It is unclear if life exists on Mars right now or if it ever did. Some researchers are enthusiastic about options akin to recurring slope lineae, that are darkish streaks that seem on the edges of craters — predominantly throughout hotter months. But it surely’s unclear if the streaks are because of briny water or dry soil stream.

There are a number of missions at Mars making an attempt to find out how liveable the planet was within the historic previous. Footage from orbit clearly present historic water channels, whereas rovers on the bottom have seen many kinds of rocks altered by water. However eons in the past, the intensive operating water diminished and Mars turned a dusty, windy planet. 

Some investigators recommend that Mars had a thicker environment within the historic previous and that the environment thinned because the solar pushed lighter particles out into house, drying up the floor. NASA’s MAVEN mission is investigating atmospheric loss on Mars.

The Curiosity rover is on a hunt for historic liveable environments. NASA and the European House Company even have newer Mars rovers on the way in which to hunt indicators of habitability; NASA’s Mars 2020 will cache promising samples, whereas ESA’s ExoMars rover can drill under the floor.

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