Planetary scientists discovered that water was briefly present in the Arabia Terra region on Mars

(ORDO NEWS) — As part of a team of collaborators from Northern Arizona University and Johns Hopkins University, Ari Koppel recently discovered that water was once in a region of Mars called Arabia Terra.

Arabia Terra is located in the northern latitudes of Mars. This ancient land, named in 1879 by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, covers an area slightly larger than the European continent. Arabia Terra contains craters, volcanic calderas, canyons and beautiful rock strips reminiscent of sedimentary layers in painted desert or badlands.

These rock layers and their formation were the subject of research by Koppel with Christopher Edwards, Associate Professor of Astronomy and Planetology at NAU, as well as Andrew Andrew Andrew, Kevin Lewis and student Gabriel Carrillo of Johns Hopkins University. Their study, entitled Fragile Recording of Fleeting Water on Mars, was funded by NASA’s Mars Data Analysis Program and was recently published in the journal Geology.

“We were particularly interested in exploring rocks on the surface of Mars to better understand the environment that existed three to four billion years ago, and if there might have been climatic conditions suitable for life on the surface,” Koppel said. “We were interested in whether there is stable water, how long can stable water exist, what the atmosphere could be, and what the surface temperature could be.”

To better understand what happened to the formation of rock layers, scientists focused on thermal inertia, which determines a material’s ability to change temperature. Sand with small and loose particles quickly gains and loses heat, and a hard boulder remains warm long after dark. By studying surface temperature, they were able to determine the physical properties of rocks in the study area. They could also tell if the material was loose and washed out, while otherwise it looked solid.

“Nobody has done deep research into the thermal inertia of these really interesting deposits that cover most of the surface of Mars,” Edwards said.

To complete the study, Koppel used remote sensing instruments on orbiting satellites. “Just like geologists on Earth, we look at rocks to tell stories about past environments,” Koppel said. “On Mars, we’re a little more limited. We can’t just go to the outcrop and collect samples – we rely heavily on satellite data. So, there are several satellites orbiting Mars, and each satellite is a collection of scientific instruments. Each tool plays a role in describing the rock at the surface. ”

In a series of studies using this remotely collected data, they examined thermal inertia, as well as evidence of erosion, crater conditions and minerals.

“We assume that these deposits are much less dense than everyone previously thought, which indicates that in these conditions there could only be water for a short period of time,” Koppel said. “It robs the story of so much needed air because we often think that having more water for a longer time means that there is a greater chance that life has been there at some point.

But this is really interesting for us, because it raises a number of new questions. What conditions could have allowed water to remain there for a short period of time? Could there have been glaciers that quickly melted due to severe floods? Could it be that there was a groundwater system that leaked out of the ground for a short period of time and then sank again?

Koppel began his college career in engineering and physics, but switched to studying geosciences while earning his master’s degree from City College of New York. He came to NAU to work with Edwards and immerse himself in the Flagstaff planetary community.

“I got into planetology because of my passion for exploring worlds outside the Earth. The universe is amazingly large; even Mars is just the tip of the iceberg, ”Koppel said. “But we have been studying Mars for several decades, and at the moment we have a huge amount of data. Are we starting to study it at levels comparable to how we could study the Earth? and this is truly an exciting time to explore Mars

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