martedì 7 ottobre 2014

Volcanic comparison could answer questions about life on Mars: New Zealand scientist


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WELLINGTON, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand scientists are leading an international study to compare samples of volcanic sediment collected by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity with volcanic sites on Earth to help determine whether Mars was ever capable of supporting life.
The team led by scientists at the University of Auckland was using a new model to compare and detect whether volcanic eruptions on Earth and Mars interacted with water.
"This is the volcanic approach to searching for water on Mars and although the technique itself is not new, applying it to discovering volcanic eruption styles from other planets is entirely new," senior lecturer in geology and study leader Dr Michael Rowe said in a statement Tuesday.
Curiosity was the first in the rover series to carry a portable x-ray diffractometer, which analyses the structure of crystals, and early comparisons suggested Martian sediments were derived from relatively dry volcanic eruptions.
But Curiosity was currently climbing the red planet's Mount Sharp, which contained a detailed record of the surface of Mars and could yield interesting results.
Thirty different samples from volcanic fields on Earth at 10 different sites have been collected for the study by the team, which included scientists from the United States, Switzerland, Canada and New Zealand.
"The characteristics of eruptions that have occurred on Mars may have been quite different to those on Earth due to the difference in atmospheric pressure and gravity," Rowe said.
"But by understanding the relative timing of interaction between water and magma rising to the surface on Mars, we will better understand when water was present at or near the Martian surface and therefore when the environment may have been hospitable toward life."

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