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Thread: Martian Mud?

  1. #1
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    Martian Mud?

    Hello, long time lurker, first time poster.

    I was wondering about the impressions left by the airbags in the photos we are getting back from Spirit. It looks almost like the ground is malleable (or should I say squishy?). Even the way some of the rocks look to be "pressed" into the ground in some places make it look more like mud than sand or gravel (which is what I had expected).

    Does anyone else see this or is it just me?

  2. #2
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    What I noticed is that instead of the dust/gravel I expected to see also under the servace in the impressions of the bounce (I assume thats what caused them) it looks like soil/earth. Because soil is a biological process (plan life rotting etc) not a geological one this looks very interesting.

    I might be wrong but then why is the ground a different colour just under the surface?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amadeus
    What I noticed is that instead of the dust/gravel I expected to see also under the servace in the impressions of the bounce (I assume thats what caused them) it looks like soil/earth. Because soil is a biological process (plan life rotting etc) not a geological one this looks very interesting.

    I might be wrong but then why is the ground a different colour just under the surface?
    Because the surface is oxidized. It won't be several inches down but hte surface is so you get a different color. I severally doubt any life on mars made it far enough to form the organic matter needed for soil.

  4. #4
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    Re: Martian Mud?

    Quote Originally Posted by snabald
    I was wondering about the impressions left by the airbags in the photos we are getting back from Spirit. It looks almost like the ground is malleable (or should I say squishy?). Even the way some of the rocks look to be "pressed" into the ground in some places make it look more like mud than sand or gravel (which is what I had expected).

    Does anyone else see this or is it just me?
    Folks at NASA are also seeing and interested in the mud-like character of the airbag-disrupted soil that you observe:



    Quote Originally Posted by [url=http://spaceflightnow.com/mars/mera/040112science.html
    CBS News Space Place[/url]]The soil has the appearance of mud and while no one believes liquid water is the cause, some sort of cohesive material, or force, must be at work to explain the soil's appearance. [...] "You can see a patch where the soil detached and was removed" as an airbag retracted, said John Grotzinger, a geologist at MIT and a member of the Spirit science team. "And that piece then advanced forward and formed this curl-up structure. What's so fascinating about this is that it doesn't exhibit the brittle deformation exclusively that we saw at Pathfinder and Viking (landing sites) but instead, we also see a more ductile, plastic form of deformation in that feature. So this is really exciting and the science team looks forward to working on this problem."

  5. #5
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    Is this the fist time this kind of stuff has been seen on mars?

    Its was sent to an possible old lake site so we should be expecting this.

    Also what I was thinking in an amaturish sort of way is if the top layer is oxidised and has formed a metallic crust could this protect the underlying area from the cold by traping heat? or by prefenting any moisture escaping?

    [EDIT]
    Also I just realised something. If the oxidised surface is a result of a proccess thats been going on for for millions of years shouldn't it be deeper?

  6. #6
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    If we had answers to all these questions, we wouldn't have to send probes to Mars.

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    Re: Martian Mud?

    Quote Originally Posted by snabald
    Even the way some of the rocks look to be "pressed" into the ground in some places make it look more like mud than sand or gravel
    If it is muddy, then should we expect cracks all over the place? I realize this isn't Earth, but it seems reasonable to expect that.

    Also, is it still called "mud" if it is frozen solid?

  8. #8
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    so i was in this cave a few years ago, and there was this bank of clay (clay being similar to, but still significantly different than mud) along the wall that looked pretty similar to the stuff outside the lander. When i touched it, a whole chunk of the surface layer came off, not unlike the skin day old pudding. underneath, the ground was a completly differnet texture.

    I'm not saying it's the same process (the clay had settled in definitive layers over the course of years) that happened on mars. it's more that personally, im not that surprised to see something like that. when you go underground into caves, especially the seldom-visited ones, you can see some weird stuff with sediment settling and such.

    my 2 cents worth,

    John

  9. #9
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    Space.com has an article about it...

    http://space.com/missionlaunches/spi...ev_040116.html

    Just a guess, but I'd say it's just some weird phenomenon we aren't familiar with here on earth and it just looks like mud. It IS another planet after all.

  10. #10
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    Liquid water today?

    From that article:

    Levin said that the formation of liquid water can happen under the environmental conditions of Mars. Indeed, that water can even exist in liquid form on the surface of the red planet.

    Furthermore, the detection by NASAs Mars Odyssey of the widespread presence of near-surface ice means liquid water is on the martian surface, Levin told SPACE.com via email.
    The claim that liquid water is on the Martian surface is contrary to what I've learned. It's my understanding that liquid water on Mars would rapidly evaporate due to the low pressure of the Martian atmosphere. According to Morrison and Owen: "Running water requires a thicker, warmer atmosphere than Mars has today" (284). Mars apparently once had a much thicker atmosphere estimated to have had a surface pressure around 0.07 bar, and even that pressure is only "barely adequate" to allow liquid water within a "very narrow temperature range" (322-3). However, the current Martian surface pressure is only 0.006 bar (297), well below a level that is "barely adequate" to sustain liquid water. I could cite other sources opposing the claim that "liquid water is on the martian surface."

    Morrison, David and Tobias Owen. The Planetary System. 3rd Ed. Boston: Addison Wesley, 2003.

  11. #11
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    Is this the fist time this kind of stuff has been seen on mars?
    An article about this I read a couple of days ago indicated that one of the Viking landers observed something similar (don't recall where I read it at the moment).

    If it is muddy, then should we expect cracks all over the place? I realize this isn't Earth, but it seems reasonable to expect that.
    Mud only cracks when it dries. And dried mud doesn't behave like mud. I don't know what is up with the soil (if that's the rigth word) on Mars, but I'm pretty sure it isn't actually mud. That requires liquid water and as Ian already noted, conditions on Mars simply don't allow water to maintain a liquid state. For now, I guess its a mystery to be solved.

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    Could it be that water is chemically bound into the soil? Could there be a process where the combination of well below freezing temps make the soil with the chemically bound water, behave as mud? Or do we already have enough observations to know how much water is bound into the soil?

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    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/mer2004/rove...s/image-8.html

    Upon obtaining images of the "soil" with Spirit's microscopic imager they are comparing the ground to "clumpy cocoa powder" still this shows some kind of cohesion... could it be electrostatic attraction because of the fine size of the grains?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by snabald
    Upon obtaining images of the "soil" with Spirit's microscopic imager they are comparing the ground to "clumpy cocoa powder" still this shows some kind of cohesion... could it be electrostatic attraction because of the fine size of the grains?
    Cocoa powder gets clumpy when it absorbs humidity from the air. The rounded clumps look more like an effect of hygroscopic salts than they resemble any of the staticy freeze dried powder aggregates that I've ever seen (and I have seen a few).

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squink
    Cocoa powder gets clumpy when it absorbs humidity from the air. The rounded clumps look more like an effect of hygroscopic salts than they resemble any of the staticy freeze dried powder aggregates that I've ever seen (and I have seen a few).
    So in other words, it could be caused by moisture.

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    Yes, but that does not mean liquid water. Hygroscopic materials can (and do) absorb water vapor from the atmosphere.

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    Re: Liquid water today?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Goddard
    From that article:

    Levin said that the formation of liquid water can happen under the environmental conditions of Mars. Indeed, that water can even exist in liquid form on the surface of the red planet.

    Furthermore, the detection by NASAs Mars Odyssey of the widespread presence of near-surface ice means liquid water is on the martian surface, Levin told SPACE.com via email.
    The claim that liquid water is on the Martian surface is contrary to what I've learned. It's my understanding that liquid water on Mars would rapidly evaporate due to the low pressure of the Martian atmosphere. According to Morrison and Owen: "Running water requires a thicker, warmer atmosphere than Mars has today" (284). Mars apparently once had a much thicker atmosphere estimated to have had a surface pressure around 0.07 bar, and even that pressure is only "barely adequate" to allow liquid water within a "very narrow temperature range" (322-3). However, the current Martian surface pressure is only 0.006 bar (297), well below a level that is "barely adequate" to sustain liquid water. I could cite other sources opposing the claim that "liquid water is on the martian surface."

    Morrison, David and Tobias Owen. The Planetary System. 3rd Ed. Boston: Addison Wesley, 2003.
    The Answer is both claims are true: Climatic conditions on mars do not allow permanent liquid water like lakes. But on rare but existing weather conditions temporary liquid water is possible.
    The range of atmospheric pressure is from 2.5 mbar to 12.5 mbar dependent on season, altitude and weather. The range of temperature is from 150K (-125C) to 300K (+25C) dependent on season and weather.
    The triple point of water is at 6.1 mbar and 273K (0C). At 12.5 mbar water is melting at 273K (0C) and boiling at 284K (11C).
    This means on a warm spring day in tropical lowlands ice indeed can melt into liquid water before it evaporates away.
    In a german science magazine article I read recently they state that the rarely existence of pressure and temperature combinations that allow temporary liquid water has been prooven. as a source they give:
    R.Haberle rt al., J. Geophys. Res. 2001, 106, 23317.

  18. #18
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    Re: Liquid water today?

    Quote Originally Posted by granolaeater
    This means on a warm spring day in tropical lowlands ice indeed can melt into liquid water before it evaporates away.
    Which is somewhat more conservative than saying "liquid water is on the martian surface."

    In a german science magazine article I read recently they state that the rarely existence of pressure and temperature combinations that allow temporary liquid water has been prooven. as a source they give:
    R.Haberle rt al., J. Geophys. Res. 2001, 106, 23317.
    Thanks for the pointer. Here's the full cite (a quick search didn't find the full text or abstract). Note that the title refers to the possibility of liquid water on Mars, which suggests some degree of speculation:

    Haberle, Robert M.; McKay, Christopher P.; Schaeffer, James; Cabrol, Nathalie A.; Grin, Edmon A.; Zent, Aaron P.; Quinn, Richard. "On the possibility of liquid water on present-day Mars." Journal of Geophysical Research, E, Planets, October 25, 2001, Vol. 106, Issue 10, pp. 23,317-23,326.

    EDIT: Adding these links:

    Formation of recent martian gullies through melting of extensive water-rich snow deposits.

    and: http://www.thursdaysclassroom.com/index_24aug00.htm

  19. #19
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    is it possible for there to be a liquid on Mars that is something other than water?

    just a thought

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by man on the moon
    is it possible for there to be a liquid on Mars that is something other than water?

    just a thought
    Extremely unlikely! 8)

  21. #21
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    Here are some relevant abstracts the possibility of liquid water on Mars:

    Science (295.5552 (2002): 110-3): "The observation of small gullies associated with recent surface runoff on Mars has renewed the question of liquid water stability at the surface of Mars. The gullies could be formed by groundwater seepage from underground aquifers; however, observations of gullies originating from isolated peaks and dune crests question this scenario. We show that these landforms may result from the melting of water ice in the top few meters of the martian subsurface at high obliquity.

    Nature (422.45 - 48 (2003)): Formation of recent martian gullies through melting of extensive water-rich snow deposits.

    Astrobiology (2.2 (2002): 183-95): "The recent discovery of high concentrations of hydrogen just below the surface of Mars' polar regions by Mars Odyssey has enlivened the debate about past or present life on Mars. The prevailing assumption prior to the discovery was that the liquid water essential for its existence is absent. That assumption was based largely on the calculation of heat and mass transfer coefficients or theoretical climate models. This research uses an experimental approach to determine the feasibility of liquid water under martian conditions, setting the stage for a more empirical approach to the question of life on Mars. Experiments were conducted in three parts: Liquid water's existence was confirmed by droplets observed under martian conditions in part 1; the evolution of frost melting on the surface of various rocks under martian conditions was observed in part 2; and the evaporation rate of water in Petri dishes under Mars-like conditions was determined and compared with the theoretical predictions of various investigators in part 3. The results led to the conclusion that liquid water can be stable for extended periods of time on the martian surface under present-day conditions."

    This paper defines regions where liquid-water is possible on Mars:

    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (98.5 (2001): 2132-2137): Discussion: "we have computed the locations and times on Mars that water is stable in liquid form. Water is stable over large areas on the edge of the northern lowlands and in the Isidis, Argyre, and Hellas plains. Moreover, in about 50% of these areas, liquid water may be possible during more than 5% of the martian orbit. These results do not indicate that water is present at these locations, only that, if it were present and heat sources were sufficient to bring the water in thermal equilibrium with the surface, the resulting liquid would be stable against freezing or boiling."

    Nature (426.6968 (2003): 797-802): "Mars is at present in an 'interglacial' period, and the ice-rich deposits are undergoing reworking, degradation and retreat in response to the current instability of near-surface ice."

    Science (168.3934 (1970): 972-973): "Abstract: In the absence of juvenile liquid water, condensation of water vapor to ice and subsequent melting of ice are the only means of producing liquid water on the martian surface. However, the evaporation rate is so high that the available heat sources cannot melt pure ice. Liquid water is therefore limited to concentrated solutions of strongly deliquescent salts."

  22. #22
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    A couple of ideas from someone who knows nothing......

    Could there be elements desolved in the water to make it more stable at lower temperatures and pressure? Like salt water not freezing at 0 degrees C?

    With reference to the aquifers After the run off wich would happen first
    a) the water would evaporate
    b) because the ground is so parched would it soak back in faster than it would evaporate?


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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amadeus
    [EDIT]
    Also I just realised something. If the oxidised surface is a result of a proccess thats been going on for for millions of years shouldn't it be deeper?
    Why? Thin atmosphere so limited intercalation of soil. Nothing to turn over the soil to expose it. I don't see why it would have to be deeper. Although I am not a geologist.

  24. #24
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    It wouldn't have to be water in that form, just hydrated minerals can behave just like that. Montmilliarite (sp?) clays on earth behave very much like Martian soils.

  25. #25
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    an answer?

    http://space.com/missionlaunches/spi...ls_040120.html

    Squyres reported that the small grains of Mars soil now appear not to be held together by static cling. Salts seem to serve as "chemical glue" that holds the grains together, he said, as suggested by the APXS data. But how these salts came to the area, by water or volcanic processes is yet to be resolved.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by snabald
    an answer?

    http://space.com/missionlaunches/spi...ls_040120.html

    Squyres reported that the small grains of Mars soil now appear not to be held together by static cling.
    Quick get them some drier sheets!

  27. #27
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    From what I've been able to find out, the soil seems to be like cryptobiotic soil. Cryptobiotic soil does occur in dry, arid regions and forms a crust. It will be interesting to hear what they find out about this.

  28. #28
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    Here's the same mud-like consistency of the soil (observe the soil near bottom of image where airbag retraction occurred), this time seen by Opportunity at Meridiani Planum:


  29. #29
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    Re: Martian Mud?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Goddard
    Quote Originally Posted by snabald
    I was wondering about the impressions left by the airbags in the photos we are getting back from Spirit. It looks almost like the ground is malleable (or should I say squishy?). Even the way some of the rocks look to be "pressed" into the ground in some places make it look more like mud than sand or gravel (which is what I had expected).

    Does anyone else see this or is it just me?
    Folks at NASA are also seeing and interested in the mud-like character of the airbag-disrupted soil that you observe:



    Quote Originally Posted by [url=http://spaceflightnow.com/mars/mera/040112science.html
    CBS News Space Place[/url]]The soil has the appearance of mud and while no one believes liquid water is the cause, some sort of cohesive material, or force, must be at work to explain the soil's appearance. [...] "You can see a patch where the soil detached and was removed" as an airbag retracted, said John Grotzinger, a geologist at MIT and a member of the Spirit science team. "And that piece then advanced forward and formed this curl-up structure. What's so fascinating about this is that it doesn't exhibit the brittle deformation exclusively that we saw at Pathfinder and Viking (landing sites) but instead, we also see a more ductile, plastic form of deformation in that feature. So this is really exciting and the science team looks forward to working on this problem."
    So what exactly does mars have..of iron ores, phosphates, clays, coppers? Bauxites (aluminum), dream, except for the " uranium and largely unexploited reserves of tin, gypsum, salts, uranium, and other elements. Can types of plastics be made from carbon dioxide and hydrogen in Mars. Will silicon dioxides if found in the ground mean that Mars can make mild steel and glass or what about concrete and fibreglass, can we make them?

    http://mer.rlproject.com/index.php?a...ost&id=351
    http://spaceflightnow.com/mars/mera/...agiccarpet.jpg
    http://mer.rlproject.com/index.php?showtopic=104

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