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Water on Mars

  1. Jun 20, 2008 #1
    Here it is! It's now official:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25274243/

    Water has been found on Mars! :)

    Now we just need to melt it all.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 20, 2008 #2

    Garth

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    Could it not be Dry Ice?

    Garth
     
  4. Jun 20, 2008 #3
    How is it "official"? The article says nothing about it being proven or even tested yet.
     
  5. Jun 20, 2008 #4
    Do you think there IS water on Mars and therefore life? It excites me but the possibilities are overwhelming.
     
  6. Jun 20, 2008 #5
    Here is another article from wedsday similar to the one posted by sanman.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080618.wphoenix0618/BNStory/Science/home

    Left of the text there are some images of the excavation. Looks like ice. They say some of it dissapeared as if the sun converted it to water vapour. I dont see this as a proof of water as dry ice (solid co2) probably behaves the same way because when you observe dry ice vapour evaporates from it.

    It would be quite amazing if there was some water ice found on mars but that doesnt mean there is life. However there have been forms of microbes and bacteria found living in some pretty extreme environments on earth so finding something like that on mars would be simply fascinating. Life starting twice in our solar system right next door.
     
  7. Jun 20, 2008 #6
    One would think that Phoenix had a spectroscopic camera on it to clearly determine the chemical makeup of dry ice or water ice. As far as I'm concerned, its neither until I get some sort of spectral analysis.

    How do the phase diagrams of CO2 and H2O compare with the surface temperature and pressure of Mars anyhow? Is it more likely that the former will stay longer before sublimating in the sun?
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2008
  8. Jun 20, 2008 #7
  9. Jun 20, 2008 #8

    LowlyPion

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    Looks like water.

    "He said the disappearing chunks could not have been carbon-dioxide ice at the local temperatures because that material would not have been stable for even one day as a solid."
    http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/06_20_pr.php
     
  10. Jun 20, 2008 #9
    Cool, answers my question.

    Very nice discovery indeed!
     
  11. Jun 21, 2008 #10
    Here are some more cool pictures:

    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/06/martian_skies.html

    The ice clouds are particularly cool to look at, and so are the dust devils. The weather on Mars seems at times to be comfortingly familiar.

    I'm wondering though if the icecaps were melted, whether the water wouldn't all just sublimate into vapor, creating a very large cloud cover masking the entire planet, with the ice crystals reflecting away more solar radiation, to make Mars colder.

    They say water is a greenhouse gas, but when you see those reflective white ice crystals, you have to wonder.
     
  12. Jun 21, 2008 #11

    LowlyPion

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    Looks like you've pretty much identified the stasis that the planet already might be experiencing.

    If the ice caps, such as they are, were melted ... the planet would get cooler?

    And what is it that happens when water vapour gets cooler? Does it precipitate and bind again with the darker detritus of the Martian soil and absorb more radiation on behalf of the planet again?

    The real problem it seems to me with Mars is the amount of resources like water and other gases that it actually does have. Whether it had it once and lost it in the persistent solar winds absent a magnetosphere or never really had it in the first place, it should make us appreciate all the more the confluence of good fortune enjoyed by that last picture in the series you posted - the earth moon portrait from 142M km.
     
  13. Jun 21, 2008 #12
    How long do you think it would take before we can fully understand and explore Mars?
     
  14. Jun 21, 2008 #13
    Yes, I really enjoyed that picture of Terra and Luna together in the same frame, au naturel. Gives you a direct feel of the scale of distance between them. (I wonder which continent of Earth is in view? Can anyone tell?)

    Here's also a cool picture of a Rainbow on Mars, taken by the Opportunity rover:

    [​IMG]

    This is a result of water droplets in the air, just like here on Earth.

    Regarding understanding Mars, I think that we should use our constantly increasing supercomputing power to then model the weather on Mars in greater detail. The orbiters and planetside probes are generating large streams of data, and these could then be usefully plugged in to a climate simulation on a supercomputer. Then we could explore terraforming ideas, to see how they might play out.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2008
  15. Jun 21, 2008 #14

    LowlyPion

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    Won't the real problem with terraforming Mars simply be the lack of a useful atmosphere and of course the non-existent magnetosphere that might serve to conserve lighter gases ... not to mention the reality of its lower gravitational mass? Modeling what atmosphere may be there may be useful for learning about planetary weather systems in general, but seemingly unlikely to be of use in actually terraforming Mars.

    Obviously there is in relative local terms some water at the poles, but with water vapor pressure already a miserably low percentage (<.03%?) of an atmospheric pressure already a minor fraction of Earth's (<1%?), it seems a rather daunting prospect to expect with the smaller atmospheric volume at the surface, that PV=nRT doesn't already show the tank is virtually empty by "terra firma's" standards.

    I think I read somewhere that water flowing on the surface was possibly a billion years ago. If true, then time's vector for that looks rather discouraging. Of course there may be some unseen frozen sea, but I fear at this point that such is the stuff of wishful science fantasy.
     
  16. Jun 21, 2008 #15
    Are there other possible candidates for terraforming?
     
  17. Jun 21, 2008 #16

    LowlyPion

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    Have we a need to terraform something else? Is water on Mars important only as a stepping stone to terraform it? Or is there perhaps something to be learned from water's history on Mars and what might be relevant as lessons to us?

    Maybe we should look more inwardly and terraform earth by trying not to muck up the place for all that may follow? Let's use supercomputers and the resources we have here to get the world in a more healthful balance before we start tampering with far off worlds I'd say.
     
  18. Jun 21, 2008 #17
    Yes, but it is in Man's nature to seek greener pastures, or to enlarge the existing green pastures.

    To accept otherwise is to cap our fate under a low ceiling.
    To relegate ourselves to merely avoiding further harm to Earth would end up as an endless Sisyphian repetition of belt-tightening.

    Mars is an engineering problem. It simply requires the right approach.
    The whole point of learning about Mars is to make use of it. Atmospheric erosion under Solar Wind is far too gradual to be relevant to human timescales anyway.

    Anyhow, back on the subject of Mars climatology modeling, there should be a joint international effort to pool data on Martian weather patterns. Perhaps there could also be a jointly-funded supercomputing effort.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2008
  19. Jun 21, 2008 #18

    LowlyPion

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    Not to be overly contentious but the manifest destiny you articulate is not unique to Man any more than it would be to the earliest prokaryotes. While I appreciate your ambition on behalf of the species, I wonder perhaps if we could set nobler goals than indiscriminately spreading ourselves around merely for the sake of spreading ourselves around?

    As to capping our fate I'd say the sun running down is a rather formidable obstacle to all ambition of extending ourselves in our current form on Mars or Earth. Maybe we should just enjoy the ride from our current assigned seats?

    It's not enough then to merely want to understand water on Mars? Or planetary climatology elsewhere unless it offers the practical end of extending Man's Empire? That seems more Star Wars than Star Trek.

    As a practical matter what life forms might be sustainable on a world with half gravity and little water, despite the idea of engineering the planet? Is our DNA which represents hundreds of millions of years of adaption and selection to Earth ecology (including full G gravity) going to be anything but a more highly fragile life form mal-adapted and ill suited for localized survival elsewhere?
     
  20. Jun 22, 2008 #19

    Actually, the whole point of learning about Mars is to further our understanding of geology, volcanism, plate tectonics, planetary formation, weather, life, and just plain general science... which can help to solve problems here, at home. We don't study Jupiter simply to make future use of it. Nor is it the same with why we study GRBs, pulsars, other galaxies, the CMB, ect.

    The more we learn about Mars, the more we learn about our own planet.
     
  21. Jun 24, 2008 #20
    Likewise, one can take that learning to an experimental level. Attempting eco-remediation methods on Mars could be used to learn about how perform remediation on Earth, should a large-scale ecological disaster occur on our only place to live.
     
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