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First active fault zone found on Mars

Crazy: First active fault zone found on Mars

Mars always amazes researchers. Now data from the rover “Curiosity” has given researchers a new riddle – it’s about the formation and disappearance of oxygen.

The planet Mars is a neighbor of the earth, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Was or is there life on the red planet? How did Mars lose most of its atmosphere? These are just two of the many questions that researchers are extremely interested in – also because they can draw some conclusions about the earth.

Now the Mars rover “Curiosity”, which has been on the red planet since 2012, has given researchers a new riddle: Why does the proportion of oxygen in the atmosphere of Mars fluctuate? “Curiosity” examines the atmosphere of Mars at the position where it is located. In the data that the rover sent from Mars to Earth, the researchers have now discovered a mysterious behavior of the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere: the amount of oxygen in the Martian atmosphere increases by up to 30 in the course of spring and summer Percent – and falls back to normal in autumn. This pattern is repeated every year, with different values.

Mars: Measurement data from “Curiosity” amazes researchers on Earth

“When we first saw this, it was just astonishing,” quotes the US space agency Nasa Sushil Atreya, professor at the University of Michigan and one of the authors of a specialist publication on the subject, which was published in the “Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets” has been published.

The data from “Curiosity” shows that the concentrations of argon and nitrogen also fluctuate in a “predictable seasonal pattern”, as NASA says. The researchers also expected the same with oxygen in the Martian atmosphere. But the fluctuation is huge. Where does the oxygen come from? And where does it go again? The researchers are asking themselves these questions, but have so far not been able to find a satisfactory answer.

Mystery on Mars: where does oxygen come from? And where does it go?

After ruling out that something was wrong with the rover’s “Curiosity” measuring instrument, they wondered whether the oxygen could possibly have come from the fact that CO2 or water molecules in the atmosphere have decayed and released oxygen. However, this would require a significantly larger amount of water, the researchers write in their specialist publication. In addition, CO2 decays too slowly to release such large amounts of oxygen.

The disappearance of oxygen in autumn cannot have anything to do with solar radiation, the researchers found. If the sun’s rays break oxygen molecules into two atoms, which then escape into space, it would take at least ten years to get the measured values, according to the scientists.

Oxygen on Mars: Researchers cannot explain the phenomenon

“We’re having a hard time explaining that,” says Melissa Trainer, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Because the behavior of oxygen does not repeat itself exactly every year and the values ​​fluctuate, the researchers suspect that it is not a phenomenon that has to do with atmospheric dynamics. “It has to be a chemical source that we don’t yet know,” said Trainer, who led the study.

The fluctuation in the oxygen content in the Martian atmosphere is reminiscent of the fluctuation in methane in the atmosphere of the red planet. “Curiosity” had shown that the methane content in the Martian atmosphere, which is normally barely measurable 0.00000004 percent, increases by 60 percent in the summer months. The researchers have not yet found a reason for this either.

Sensational find on Mars: Methane deposits indicate life

Mars: Measurement data from “Curiosity” amazes researchers on Earth

“When we first saw this, it was just astonishing,” quotes the US space agency Nasa Sushil Atreya, professor at the University of Michigan and one of the authors of a specialist publication on the subject, which was published in the “Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets” has been published.

The data from “Curiosity” shows that the concentrations of argon and nitrogen also fluctuate in a “predictable seasonal pattern”, as NASA says. The researchers also expected the same with oxygen in the Martian atmosphere. But the fluctuation is huge. Where does the oxygen come from? And where does it go again? The researchers are asking themselves these questions, but have so far not been able to find a satisfactory answer.

Mystery on Mars: where does oxygen come from? And where does it go?

After ruling out that something was wrong with the rover’s “Curiosity” measuring instrument, they wondered whether the oxygen could possibly have come from the fact that CO2 or water molecules in the atmosphere have decayed and released oxygen. However, this would require a significantly larger amount of water, the researchers write in their specialist publication. In addition, CO2 decays too slowly to release such large amounts of oxygen.

The disappearance of oxygen in autumn cannot have anything to do with solar radiation, the researchers found. If the sun’s rays break oxygen molecules into two atoms, which then escape into space, it would take at least ten years to get the measured values, according to the scientists.

Oxygen on Mars: Researchers cannot explain the phenomenon

“We’re having a hard time explaining that,” says Melissa Trainer, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Because the behavior of oxygen does not repeat itself exactly every year and the values ​​fluctuate, the researchers suspect that it is not a phenomenon that has to do with atmospheric dynamics. “It has to be a chemical source that we don’t yet know,” said Trainer, who led the study.

The fluctuation in the oxygen content in the Martian atmosphere is reminiscent of the fluctuation in methane in the atmosphere of the red planet. “Curiosity” had shown that the methane content in the Martian atmosphere, which is normally barely measurable 0.00000004 percent, increases by 60 percent in the summer months. The researchers have not yet found a reason for this either.

Sensational find on Mars: Methane deposits indicate life

Mars rover “Curiosity” measures the atmosphere of Mars for the first time over years

The only space probe on Mars that apart from “Curiosity” could measure the composition of the Martian atmosphere near the surface was the twin lander “Viking”. However, their experiments only lasted a few days on Mars – so they did not see the seasonal fluctuations in the gases.

“This is the first time that we have been able to observe this interesting behavior over several years,” emphasizes Trainer, who openly admits that the scientists do not yet understand it. “For me it is a call to all the smart people out there who are interested in the topic: look what you can find out.”

The planet Mars – always good for mysteries

Is there life on Mars? Scientists are trying to answer this question. Now a researcher who was involved in the “Viking” missions at the time claims that NASA found life on Mars as early as 1976 *. The NASA chief scientist, on the other hand, assumes that science may find life in one of the next Mars missions *. “We are not prepared for it,” he says.

The Mars mission “InSight” is currently active on the red planet. Researchers have discovered astonishing things in the mission’s data: Mars’ magnetic field occasionally pulsates * – at midnight. Why it is like that? Perhaps the four missions heading to Mars in 2020 * will provide an answer.

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