Mars has lost great amount of its atmosphere from the past but still it is quite active, according to the scientists from NASA Mars rover Curiosity. They reported their findings at the European Geosciences Union 2013 General Assembly, in Vienna.
“We found arguably the clearest and most robust signature of atmospheric loss on Mars,” said Sushil Atreya, a SAM co-investigator at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Scientists made the most precise measurements of the isotopes of argon, ever done, in the atmosphere of the Mars through the Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM). This analysis showed that the Martian atmosphere has four fold lighter stable isotope (argon-36) as compared to the heavier one (argon-38). This ratio is much less than the measurements of the sun and Jupiter.
Measurements made by the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on the Curiosity are the first systematic analysis of the humidity on Mars. Scientists found that the air temperature has climbed steadily since the analysis started eight months ago. Moreover, the humidity is different at different places as found by the rover in its route.
Spain provided REMS.
Scientists get information about the dust by using Curiosity’s laser-firing Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument that exposes the underlying material of the dust by exposing it to the laser pulses.
“We knew that Mars is red because of iron oxides in the dust,” said ChemCam Deputy Principal Investigator Sylvestre Maurice of the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie in Toulouse, France. “ChemCam reveals a complex chemical composition of the dust that includes hydrogen, which could be in the form of hydroxyl groups or water molecules.”
Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN), which was provided by Russia, along with other instruments helped scientists to study the interchange of water molecules between the atmosphere and the ground.
Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) will be used along with other instruments such as DAN and REMS in the coming part of the month.
“After conjunction, Curiosity will be drilling into another rock where the rover is now, but that target has not yet been selected. The science team will discuss this over the conjunction period.” said Mars Science Laboratory Project Scientist John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.