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Planetary Scientists Discover Water in Mars

Team from Northern Arizona University and Johns Hopkins University, Northern Arizona University (NAU) Ph.D. candidate Ari Koeppel recently discovered that water was once present in a region of Mars. The area is called the Arabia Terra, which is in the northern latitudes of Mars.This ancient land, identified by Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1879, is slightly larger than the European continent. Craters, volcanic calderas, canyons, and spectacular rock bands resembling sedimentary rock strata in the Painted Desert or the Badlands may be found in the region.

The research focus for Koeppel and his advisor, associate professor Christopher Edwards of NAU’s Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science, as well as Andrew Annex, Kevin Lewis, and undergraduate student Gabriel Carrillo of Johns Hopkins University, was on these layers of rock and how they formed. The NASA Mars Data Analysis Program supported their research, which was just published in GeoloGY with the title A fragile record of transient water on Mars.

To understand what happened to create the rock layers, the scientists focused on thermal inertia, which defines the ability of a material to change temperature. Sand, with small and loose particles, gains and loses heat quickly, while a solid boulder will remain warm long after dark.

By looking at surface temperatures, they could determine the physical properties of rocks in their study area. They could tell if material was loose and eroding when it otherwise looked like it was solid. Through a series of investigations using this remotely gathered data, they looked at thermal inertia, plus evidence of erosion, the condition of the craters and what minerals were present.

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