Navigation Links
Oregon geologist says Curiosity's images show Earth-like soils on Mars
Date:7/17/2014

EUGENE, Ore. -- Soil deep in a crater dating to some 3.7 billion years ago contains evidence that Mars was once much warmer and wetter, says University of Oregon geologist Gregory Retallack, based on images and data captured by the rover Curiosity.

NASA rovers have shown Martian landscapes littered with loose rocks from impacts or layered by catastrophic floods, rather than the smooth contours of soils that soften landscapes on Earth. However, recent images from Curiosity from the impact Gale Crater, Retallack said, reveal Earth-like soil profiles with cracked surfaces lined with sulfate, ellipsoidal hollows and concentrations of sulfate comparable with soils in Antarctic Dry Valleys and Chile's Atacama Desert.

His analyses appear in a paper placed online this week by the journal Geology in advance of print in the September issue. Retallack, the paper's lone author, studied mineral and chemical data published by researchers closely tied with the Curiosity mission. Retallack, professor of geological sciences and co-director of paleontology research at the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History, is an internationally known expert on the recognition of paleosols -- ancient fossilized soils contained in rocks.

"The pictures were the first clue, but then all the data really nailed it," Retallack said. "The key to this discovery has been the superb chemical and mineral analytical capability of the Curiosity Rover, which is an order of magnitude improvement over earlier generations of rovers. The new data show clear chemical weathering trends, and clay accumulation at the expense of the mineral olivine, as expected in soils on Earth. Phosphorus depletion within the profiles is especially tantalizing, because it attributed to microbial activity on Earth."

The ancient soils, he said, do not prove that Mars once contained life, but they do add to growing evidence that an early wetter and warmer Mars was more habitable than the planet has been in the past 3 billion years.

Curiosity rover is now exploring topographically higher and geologically younger layers within the crater, where the soils appear less conducive to life. For a record of older life and soils on Mars, Retallack said, new missions will be needed to explore older and more clayey terrains.

Surface cracks in the deeply buried soils suggest typical soil clods. Vesicular hollows, or rounded holes, and sulfate concentrations, he said, are both features of desert soils on Earth.

"None of these features is seen in younger surface soils of Mars," Retallack said. "The exploration of Mars, like that of other planetary bodies, commonly turns up unexpected discoveries, but it is equally unexpected to discover such familiar ground."

The newly discovered soils provide more benign and habitable soil conditions than known before on Mars. Their dating to 3.7 billion years ago, he noted, puts them into a time of transition from "an early benign water cycle on Mars to the acidic and arid Mars of today." Life on Earth is believed to have emerged and began diversifying about 3.5 million years ago, but some scientists have theorized that potential evidence that might take life on Earth farther back was destroyed by plate tectonics, which did not occur on Mars.

In an email, Malcolm Walter of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology, who was not involved in the research, said the potential discovery of these fossilized soils in the Gale Crater dramatically increases the possibility that Mars has microbes. "There is a real possibility that there is or was life on Mars," he wrote.

Retallack noted that Steven Benner of the Westheimer Institute of Science and Technology in Florida has speculated that life is more likely to have originated on a soil planet like Mars than a water planet like Earth. In an email, Benner wrote that Retallack's paper "shows not only soils that might be direct products of an early Martian life, but also the wet-dry cycles that many models require for the emergence of life."


'/>"/>

Contact: Jim Barlow
jebarlow@uoregon.edu
541-346-3481
University of Oregon
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Dozens of fires plague Oregon
2. Oregon study details brain pathways linking visual function, running
3. Sea star disease epidemic surges in Oregon, local extinctions expected
4. Oregon researchers capture handoff of tracked object between brain hemispheres
5. Zebra fish fins help Oregon researchers gain insight into bone regeneration
6. Oregon scientists offer new insights on controlling nanoparticle stability
7. Development near Oregon, Washington public forests
8. Oregon researchers say supplement cuts muscle loss in knee replacements
9. Oregon Biodiversity Information Center wins 2013 Natureserve Network Collaboration Award
10. Ken Bierly of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board to receive ESA Regional Policy Award
11. University of Miami geologists to address the mystery of an evolution gap in reef corals
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Oregon geologist says Curiosity's images show Earth-like soils on Mars
(Date:4/19/2016)... , UAE, April 20, 2016 ... be implemented as a compact web-based "all-in-one" system solution ... the biometric fingerprint reader or the door interface with ... of modern access control systems. The minimal dimensions of ... ID readers into the building installations offer considerable freedom ...
(Date:4/14/2016)... 14, 2016 BioCatch ™, ... today announced the appointment of Eyal Goldwerger ... Goldwerger,s leadership appointment comes at a time ... the deployment of its platform at several of the ... which discerns unique cognitive and physiological factors, is a ...
(Date:3/31/2016)... March 31, 2016  Genomics firm Nabsys has completed ... Barrett Bready , M.D., who returned to the ... original technical leadership team, including Chief Technology Officer, ... Development, Steve Nurnberg and Vice President of Software and ... company. Dr. Bready served as CEO of ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016   Boston Biomedical ... novel compounds designed to target cancer stemness pathways, ... been granted Orphan Drug Designation from the U.S. ... of gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancer. ... designed to inhibit cancer stemness pathways by targeting ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) is pleased to announce 24 new Young ... cancer. Members of the Class of 2016 were selected from a pool of ... More About the Class of 2016 PCF Young Investigators ... ... ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , ... June 23, 2016 , ... In a new ... in Denmark detail how a patient who developed lymphedema after being treated for breast ... results could change the paradigm for dealing with this debilitating, frequent side effect of ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 23, 2016 , ... ClinCapture, the only free validated electronic ... showcase its product’s latest features from June 26 to June 30, 2016 for ... Disrupting Clinical Trials in The Cloud during the conference. DIA (Drug Information ...
Breaking Biology Technology: