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Using orbital data from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), scientists have found salt deposits on Mars where nearby crater counts suggest that the salt water that once held these deposits could have evaporated away as recently as 2.3 billion years ago.
Using [MRO’s] cameras to create digital elevation maps, Leask and Ehlmann found that many of the salts were in depressions – once home to shallow ponds – on gently sloping volcanic plains. The scientists also found winding, dry channels nearby – former streams that once fed surface runoff (from the occasional melting of ice or permafrost) into these ponds. Crater counting and evidence of salts on top of volcanic terrain allowed them to date the deposits.
Past data has suggested that if liquid surface water had existed on Mars, it was gone by three billion years ago.
You can read the scientists’ research paper here.. The maps to the right, figure two from the paper, shows the locations of discovered salt deposits, almost all of which are in the Martian southern cratered highlands of Mars.
Is there uncertainty in these results? My regular readers know that the answer is of course yes. The biggest problem for these Mars researchers is that, despite the surface evidence that liquid water should have once flowed on the surface of Mars, no scientist has yet come up with a satisfactory model of Mars’ past climate that would have made that possible. The planet was either too cold or had too thin an atmosphere, based on other data. And getting it warmer or with a thicker atmosphere involves inventing any number of scenarios that are all questionable, based on what is presently known.
There is also the increasing evidence that glaciers of ice, not water, might have carved those winding, dry channels. If so, many of the assumptions that liquid water existed might simply be wrong, or incomplete. The scientists who wrote this report recognize this importance of ice on Mars, and note in their abstract that
…we think that the water source came from surface runoff, rather than deep groundwater welling up to the surface. The small amounts of water required are most likely from occasional melting of ice.
As always, more data is needed, with the most useful data that will clarify these conclusions being that gathered by future colonists on the surface of Mars itself.
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.
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; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.