New Method In Searching for Water on Mars
One of the major reasons why there is life on our planet has to do with the specific combination of Hydrogen and Oxygen molecules to form a stable compound responsible for supporting life. Water is perhaps the most definitive sign for the presence of life and that is why scientists are hard at work in trying to look for water on other planets. The presence or absence of water in a planet can tell whether life is or was possible there and whether or not other life forms can or have existed there. Water is responsible for providing a medium for life to develop as well as maintaining the planet’s temperature so that life can be sustained. A planet that is too hot or too cold cannot support life and water plays a vital role in maintaining the proper temperature.
Most unmanned missions to Mars have been done to collect data about the planet. Rovers that have been sent send back data regarding the planet’s atmosphere, geology, and tpossible presence of water whether in liquid or solid form.
There has been considerable effort to look for water on Mars and a new method for detecting this precious compound just might help our quest on the Red Planet. Kellie Wall is an undergraduate at Washington State University has developed a new method of looking for water by looking at rocks—specifically volcanic rocks.
Wall first became fascinated with geology when she was young when she first visited Mount St. Helens. This passion for geology was rekindled in her sophomore year and within months, here professors asked her if she would like to help and join their research about the Red Planet. Her curiosity with the volcanic rocks—specifically basalt—at Mount St. Helen would eventually help drive her research and advance mankind’s understanding of the Martian Terrain.
Wall and her colleagues have established a way to quantify the texture of a rock based on its contact with water while it was forming. Volcanic rocks cool rapidly in the presence of water and with enough water, lava will actually transform into glass crystals. If water wasn’t present during the rock’s formation, then the internal structure of the rock will have a more crystalline structure.
They then made an index based on these observations and properties and then compared it to the rocks analyzed by NASA using their Curiosity Rover. Through this, they can then verify if Mars had water on its surface. Unfortunately, from the rocks analyzed by the Curiosity Rover, there aren’t any rocks that matched Wall’s index. Still, she feels that her index is a tremendous achievement that can help us understand the Martian terrain better.
Wall states that the quantification of volcanic textures is actually a very new and exciting way to look at water. Before, studies and research regarding water on Mars focused on finding actual water in liquid or solid form or by looking at sedimentary structures such as limestone which forms in a water-dense environment. This is a new and interesting avenue for research since determining the presence of water using volcanic rocks is something new.