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Tracks left by Spirit -- Image courtesy of NASA
Findings collected by the Mars rover Spirit gets scientists excited for what other secrets the Red Planet may hide

Scientists have conducted a lot of research to discover signs of water and possible life on Mars.  A recent discovery by a NASA rover has created excitement in the scientific community: the Mars rover Spirit collected soil samples that makes scientists strongly believe Mars was once wet. 

The rover found some Martian soil with high levels of silica, which needs water to crystalize.  Basic chemical analysis on the soil revealed the soil composition contained up to 90 percent silica.  This soil, located in Gusev Crater, is the strongest evidence that water, at some point in the planet's history, existed.

Scientists are unsure how the silica deposit in the crater originally formed.  The most likely theory is that soil mixed with acid vapors, created by volcanic activity, along with a strong presence of water.  Another popular idea is that the silica was created from water from a hot spring.

Spirit's discovery "reinforces the fact that significant amounts of water were present in Mars' past, which continues to spur the hope that we can show that Mars was once habitable and possibly supported life," said Doug McCuistion, NASA Mars exploration program director.

Oddly enough, the silica discovery happened due to a Spirit mechanical problem.  The bright patches of silica-rich soil were discovered when one of the rover's wheels dragged through the topsoil, revealing the bright colored silica-soil underneath.

Scientists are anxious to continue their research to discover what else is on the Red Planet.  Research indicates ice under the Martian surface varies in depth from location to location.
Late last year, NASA researchers used the Mars Global Surveyor to discover water flowed recently on the Red Planet.

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By cochy on 5/22/2007 1:16:32 PM , Rating: 5
Isn't it pretty much a foregone conclusion that Mars once had water, and plenty of it?

Mars has massive canyons that put the Grand Canyon to shame. How can you get a canyon like this without water?

RE: Hmmm
By P4blo on 5/22/2007 1:26:17 PM , Rating: 4
High winds and sand can make for a very abrasive combination. But I have to agree, when you look at the pictures of Mars's surface, it's pretty obvious something was flowing. A few scientists have hypothesised that it might have been liquid methane though or something.

RE: Hmmm
By cochy on 5/22/2007 1:35:14 PM , Rating: 3
Well I thought about winds but that would carve a relatively straight canyon. Winds don't wind and turn like rivers. In terms of another liquid carving the canyon, now I'm out of my element but maybe the density/other property of water vs. methane might make one a better choice for it's "erodability" factor.

RE: Hmmm
By Lightning III on 5/22/2007 2:16:17 PM , Rating: 4
wind water or methane it's the hardness of the rock earth or soil that makes it twist and turn ,

not if its wind or water


RE: Hmmm
By cochy on 5/22/2007 5:02:10 PM , Rating: 2
good point!

RE: Hmmm
By Goty on 5/22/2007 2:40:57 PM , Rating: 3
Couldn't have been liqid methane, not nearly cold enough. You don't start forming liquid methane until you're well out into the area occupied by the Jovian planets.

RE: Hmmm
By theapparition on 5/23/2007 9:48:42 AM , Rating: 2
Nor can liquid water exist on the surface of Mars either, right now. But in the past, the enviroment may have supported liquid water, or liquid methane.

But in general, I do agree. I don't think it was methane.

RE: Hmmm
By Goty on 5/23/2007 11:59:57 AM , Rating: 2
The temperature of the vacuum between the planets between the orbits of Earth and the Asteroid belt is too high for Methane to condense out into a liquid.

So basically, no, Mars never had liquid Methane.

RE: Hmmm
By goz314 on 5/22/2007 1:56:24 PM , Rating: 2
How can you get a canyon like this without water?

Volcanic activity and tectonic movements also involve forces that can form canyons or canyon-like features.

RE: Hmmm
By cochy on 5/22/2007 2:46:24 PM , Rating: 2
All good points, prompted me to read the wiki article

Seems the ruled out water because it's presently too cold for liquid water to form on the surface. Seems a little short sighted to me as this canyon was formed millions to billions of years ago.

RE: Hmmm
By Ringold on 5/22/2007 6:05:46 PM , Rating: 4
That's about the level of sophistication I expect from Wikipedia. Written like someone who can read out of a textbook but makes simple mistakes because they really don't know what they're typing about.

RE: Hmmm
By GI2K on 5/23/2007 12:38:29 PM , Rating: 2
If you can do better feel free to edit that page...

RE: Hmmm
By Jonahdaily on 5/23/2007 5:13:25 AM , Rating: 2
This may come as a shock to many but there are other theories around concering the water on Mars. People should do a bit of research and not only believe what mainstream popular science has to offer.

There is a very plausable theory of a missing planet that has exploded. This planet had a lot of water much like earth has now. This planet is at this stage the only real explanation of the origen of comets. The traditional models are insuffisient. It is the only model that can explain all the meteorites properly and has even successfully been used to predict meteorite showers. It also explains the water on Jupiter's moon's and is probably the sole cause of craters on our solar system's planets and our own moon.

Mars could have been just a close planet, but more likely was a moon of this planet. That would explain why Mars' souther hemosphere's crust is thicker. It starts off at about 20km and thins out to 1km. The whole northern hemosphere is about 1km thick. Mars was struck from the south. Mars was probably covered with water completely. Unfortunately Mars' gravity is not strong enough and ass time passed, it lost a lot of its water. I think that most of it just sank into Mars' soil and rocks where it frose. The comet and meteorite kept hitting the planet though. The craters looks like when you throw pebles into a mud pond. Since the Southern hemisphere is thicker, the water flowed to the lower regions which caused canyons. The water covered areas also show much fewer craters.

This also did not happen that long ago geologicaly speaking. The craters should have dissapeared log ago because Mars' atmosphere is dense enough for that and has a lot of wind storms for erosion.

RE: Hmmm
By cocoman on 5/23/2007 4:15:26 PM , Rating: 2
I have never ever read something like this. And I read a lot about astronomy and space in general. Explaining water on Europa (the moon of jupiter that has water) and meteorite showers by the explotion of a planet is just ridiculous. Water can be explained the same way there is water on Earth. Not because of some misterious missing planet. And meteorite showers happen because there is a meteor belt in the solar system and every time we cross that part of the system, which happens every year at the same time (that is why we can predict them), we have meteorite showers. The explanaition for them is no misterious planet that exploded.

RE: Hmmm
By Jonahdaily on 5/24/2007 4:59:44 AM , Rating: 2
I see more and more that people are getting so used to believe just everything the popular media dishes out and that becomes their standard by which they judge everything else. When anybody questions that, they are branded immediately without even considdering their point of view for a second, well maybe for two seconds.

This theory is not that new, but does contradict other theories. Remember that all of these theories, including this one, are just that, theories! Even when we talk about facts we are talking about interpreted evidence.

When I talk about this, I will use words like "could have been." People today just say "it happended like this and that..."

This theory is plausable and could give us great insight into where the asteroid belt comes from and where comets come from. Mars is the most unusual of our solid planets. The craters and canyons baffle scientists seriously. There is even sediment layers in the canyon walls. Many might think it took millions of years to build up. If there was a catastrophy, this sedimentation could collect in a very short time. The canyon has also shown to have formed in a short time, like Dry Falls.

We still have the problem of Mars' craters that looked like they were made in mud.

Traces of Sodium were found in a tail of a comet which could indicate that it originated from an ocean much like ours. Ofcourse this is not conclusive evidence but I think the theory is worth investigating. Do not just slam it. Proper science exhausts a theory to the full extent before discarding it.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home
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