Curiosity rover explored for the first time Martian atmosphere


03/11/2012

First Mars rover Curiosity performed an analysis of the atmosphere of Mars, finding in it a large number of heavy isotopes of carbon and argon, according to the data of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Martian atmosphere that exists today, the thinner the earth about 100 times, but researchers believe that it was much closer to ancient times, so that the planet was dominated by a milder climate. Atmospheric data collected by the instrument SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars), will allow scientists to determine the reasons why Mars lost its dense atmosphere.

It is known that the SAM instrument with built-in laser spectrometer him, a mass spectrometer and a gas chromatograph, the first took a few so-called "breaths" in the Gale crater in the cluster of sand, as well as Martian soil, a place that NASA scientists have given the name of "rock’s Nest" (Rocknest). The rover stopped here for the collection and analysis of the first samples of the soil.

The earliest evidence suggests that carbon in the atmosphere of Mars, heavy isotopes 5% greater than the concentration, which in the age forming Red planet should exist.

This indicates that the process of "dispersion" of the atmosphere in the first place was leaking in its upper layers, which is why "survived" more heavy atoms, which are mainly in the lower layers.

The SAM also recorded a large number of heavy isotopes of argon, which is exactly the data that were obtained in the study of meteorites from Mars.

Apart from the fact, SAM tried to make the first accurate measurements of methane in the atmosphere. The evidence suggests that in the area of the crater Gale virtually no methane. The concentration of the gas, measured by laser spectrometer was even less than several ppb.

Methane on Mars for scientists is of great interest because of its presence may be a confirmation of the existence of life. Obtained with the orbiters earlier data showed that methane is present in the Martian atmosphere and its concentration varies depending on the season.

All these data were obtained using a laser spectrometer TLS, while the mass spectrometer, which is equipped with SAM helped determine the full composition of the atmosphere. Scientists in the future plan to hold regular measurements to determine seasonal variations.


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