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Data from Opportunity suggests surface dew periodically appears even in the dry equatorial regions

Using data from the rover Opportunity, scientists now think that the renewal of Martian salt crusts on rock surfaces on the rim of Endeavour Crater could possibly by caused by the appearance of rare thin wetting events, and that such events could have even occurred very recently and be on-going..

The scientists looked at the rate of erosion and renewal of the salt crusts, and found them to be in a steady state. The erosion is slow, taking from 200,000 to 2,000,000 years to remove 1 to 2 millimeters. However, periodically a thin film of water or wetting occurs, not unlike dew on Earth, which quickly acts to renew the crust. As David Mittlefehldt of the Astromaterials Research Office at the Johnson Space Center and the lead author of the paper explained to me,

Taken together, the data leaves open the possibility the salt mobilization has occurred within the last few thousand years. It could be ongoing in the sense that over a period of thousands? or hundreds? of years it might happen again.

In other words, the evidence suggests that every few hundred or thousand years the surface of these rocks gets wet, which results in the placement of a new thin layer of salt crusts.

Mittlefehldt also emphasized to me that these wetting events are rare, and “there is also the case that such an event may never come again because of changing conditions.”

The situation is essentially like on Earth, where in some places hydrologists measure the size of floods by how rare they are. A 1,000 year flood is big, but it happens very rarely. At Endeavour Crater these wetting events are comparably rare, but they do not involve big floods, but a mere moistening of the ground.

The location of Endeavour Crater is about 2 degrees south latitude, so it sits in the dry equatorial regions where no surface or near surface ice has so far been found. However, the cyclic nature of Mars’ orbit and obliquity could have changed this in the past, and could change this again in the future. At this time we simply don’t have enough information to know.

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Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

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