Mars MAVEN and the Search for Ancient Martian Oceans
Water MAVEN seeks is underground, not in space. (Updated 12/8/2016)
Note: On November 22, 2016 NASA announced that a frozen sea with as much fresh water as is in Lake Superior on Earth was found at on Mars at Utopia Planitia between 39° and 49° North. See https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/mars-ice-deposit-holds-as-much-water-as-lake-superior.
Note: Also see our article about BRINE ON MARS dated 4/17/2015.
DECEMBER 25, 2014 UPDATE. MAVEN stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN. A summary of the early MAVEN findings is here. Briefly:
Early discoveries by NASA's newest Mars orbiter are starting to reveal key features about the loss of the planet's atmosphere to space over time… The observations reveal a new process by which the solar wind can penetrate deep into a planetary atmosphere. They include the first comprehensive measurements of the composition of Mars' upper atmosphere and electrically charged ionosphere. The results also offer an unprecedented view of ions as they gain the energy that will lead to their escape from the atmosphere.
"We are beginning to see the links in a chain that begins with solar-driven processes acting on gas in the upper atmosphere and leads to atmospheric loss," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator…"
On each orbit around Mars, MAVEN dips into the ionosphere… from about 75 to 300 miles above the surface. This layer serves as a kind of shield around the planet, deflecting the solar wind, an intense stream of hot, high-energy particles from the sun. Scientists have long thought that measurements of the solar wind could be made only before these particles hit the invisible boundary of the ionosphere. MAVEN's Solar Wind Ion Analyzer, however, has discovered a stream of solar-wind particles that are not deflected but penetrate deep into Mars' upper atmosphere and ionosphere.
Interactions in the upper atmosphere appear to transform this stream of ions into a neutral form that can penetrate to surprisingly low altitudes. Deep in the ionosphere, the stream emerges…in ion form again. The reappearance of these ions, which retain characteristics of the pristine solar wind, provides a new way to track the properties of the solar wind and may make it easier to link drivers of atmospheric loss directly to activity in the upper atmosphere and ionosphere.
MAVEN's Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer is exploring the nature of the reservoir from which gases are escaping by conducting the first comprehensive analysis of the composition of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. These studies will help researchers make connections between the lower atmosphere, which controls climate, and the upper atmosphere, where the loss is occurring.
The instrument has measured the abundances of many gases in ion and neutral forms, revealing well-defined structure in the upper atmosphere and ionosphere, in contrast to the lower atmosphere, where gases are well-mixed. The variations in these abundances over time will provide new insights into the physics and chemistry of this region and have already provided evidence of significant upper-atmospheric "weather" that has not been measured in detail before.
...The spacecraft's Suprathermal and Thermal Ion Composition (STATIC) instrument…detected the "polar plume" of ions escaping from Mars. This measurement is important in determining the rate of atmospheric loss. As the satellite dips down into the atmosphere, STATIC identifies the cold ionosphere at closest approach and subsequently measures the heating of this charged gas to escape velocities as MAVEN rises in altitude. The energized ions ultimately break free of the planet's gravity as they move along a plume that extends behind Mars.
Normally I don't discuss the so called Torah Code on my site. My father is a big believer, but the idea that there is a predictive code based on Equidistant Letter Sequence (ELS) in the 304,805 letters of Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) remains a highly contested one among some of the leading mathematicians in the world. You can read about Code Basics HERE. But even a broken clock is right twice a day, and as I started to write this article an Atlas 5 rocket with MAVEN sat poised a few miles north of my parents' home in Cape Canaveral, ready to blast off for Mars on November 18, 2013. Its mission is to determine how the Martian atmosphere (i.e. atmospheric pressure) and water (ocean) were lost over time. On the matrix below, the axis term is MARS MAVEN. At an ELS on the matrix is ATMOSPHERE and VOLATILE. PRESSURE is at the same absolute skip as MARS MAVEN. In the open text is LET THE WATERS BE GATHERED FROM UNDER THE HEAVENS TO ONE PLACE AND LET APPEAR THE DRY (LAND). This article will look at what happened to the atmospheric pressure (which we believe we can prove is much higher than NASA reports) and to the ancient Martian ocean (which we believe is to be largely found underground on Mars today). While the matrix may be coincidental, it does at least inspire some thoughts that we will present below.
Figure 1 above: Torah Codes matrix with Mars MAVEN as axis term (first term sought).
Figure 2: Cover of our PowerPoint. It shows that the pressure essentially pegged out at the maximum pressure that MSL was designed to measure (11.5 mbar). The average pressure shown for Sol 370 was 11.49 mbar. This proves that the transducer sent could not measure the actual maximum pressure seen at Gale Crater on Mars.
SO WHAT HAPPENED TO THE WATER ON MARS? On September 26, 2013, JPL announced that the MSL Rover Curiosity had found that Martian soil at Gale Crater was 2% water, meaning that there are 2 pints of water in every cubic foot of soil.
Figure 3: The REMS Team alleges large changes in relative humidity over small distances and with fairy constant temperatures. The relative humidity data shown on Figures 3 and 4 are NOT matched by their daily reports which never showed data for relative humidity.
Figure 4 adapted from the REMS Team: On June 27, 2013 REMS published this chart, but it continues to leave relative humidity reported only as --% on all its daily MSL weather reports.
lt isn't just that so much water was seen at Gale Crater. In fact, there has also been been a discovery that there is more water in the atmosphere than NASA thought before. Given how much water we now know is just under the surface, this shouldn't surprise us, but it may be evidence of higher pressure than our faulty pressure transducers were capable of measuring after their tiny dust filters clogged with dust immediately upon exposure to the very dusty Martian atmosphere. On September 29, 2011 the following article (in dark blue font) was found at http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/index.cfm?fobjectid=49342. It should be read in conjunction with our article in conjunction with our 511 mbar Mars areoid pressure estimate located HERE.
New analysis of data sent back by the SPICAM spectrometer on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft has revealed for the first time that the planet's atmosphere is supersaturated with water vapour. This surprising discovery has major implications for understanding the Martian water cycle and the historical evolution of the atmosphere.
This lack of direct measurements has meant that descriptions of the vertical distribution of water vapour – a key factor in the study of Mars' hydrological cycle – has generally been based upon global climate models.
This gap in the data has now been addressed by the SPICAM (Spectroscopy for Investigation of Characteristics of the Atmosphere of Mars) imaging spectrometer on Mars Express.
The instrument can be used in occultation mode, when it studies light from the Sun that has passed through the planet's atmosphere just after sunrise or before sunset. The measurements can then be analysed to generate vertical concentration profiles for several atmospheric constituents, including water vapour.
Surprising new results, based on SPICAM data obtained during the northern spring and summer, indicate that the vertical distribution of water vapour in the Martian atmosphere is very different from previous assumptions.
Writing in this week's issue of the journal Science, an international team led by Luca Maltagliati of the Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales (LATMOS) in Guyancourt, France, describe SPICAM observations at infrared wavelengths that for the first time provide evidence for the existence of supersaturated water vapour on Mars.
The atmosphere of Mars holds
Under normal conditions on Earth, water vapour condenses around tiny dust or aerosol particles or salts when the atmospheric temperature drops below a certain "dew point". The atmosphere is then said to be "saturated", since it cannot hold any more moisture at that temperature and pressure. Any water vapour in excess of the "dew point" will normally condense to form droplets or icy crystals.
However, supersaturation may occur when some of the water vapour remains in the atmosphere, instead of condensing or freezing. When condensation nuclei (assumed to be dust aerosols on Mars) are too rare, condensation is impeded, leaving substantial amounts of excess vapour.
Until now, it was generally assumed that such supersaturation cannot exist in the cold Martian atmosphere: any water vapour in excess of saturation was expected to be converted immediately into ice. However, the SPICAM data have revealed that supersaturation occurs frequently in the middle atmosphere – at altitudes of up to 50 km above the surface – during the aphelion season, the period when Mars is near its farthest point from the Sun.
Extremely high levels of supersaturation were found on Mars, up to 10 times greater than those found on Earth. Clearly, there is much more water vapour in the upper Martian atmosphere than anyone ever imagined. It seems that previous models have greatly underestimated the quantities of water vapour at heights of 20–50 km, with as much as 10 to 100 times more water than expected at this altitude.
"The vertical distribution of water vapour is a key factor in the study of Mars' hydrological cycle, and the old paradigm that it is mainly controlled by saturation physics now needs to be revised," said Luca Maltagliati. "Our finding has major implications for understanding the planet's global climate and the transport of water from one hemisphere to the other."
"The data suggest that much more water vapour is being carried high enough in the atmosphere to be affected by photodissociation," added Franck Montmessin, also from LATMOS, who is the Principal Investigator for SPICAM and a co-author of the paper.
"Solar radiation can split the water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen atoms, which can then escape into space. This has implications for the rate at which water has been lost from the planet and for the long-term evolution of the Martian surface and atmosphere."
The new paper analyses SPICAM data obtained when the Martian atmosphere is relatively dust-free. The absence of dust enables the instrument to measure the vertical profile to within 10 km of the planet's surface. The supersaturation levels are likely to plummet in the southern summer, when dust storms inject large amounts of aerosols into the atmosphere, increasing the supply of condensation nuclei.
"Evidence of Water Vapor in Excess of Saturation in the Atmosphere of Mars", by L. Maltagliati, F. Montmessin, A. Fedorova, O. Korablev, F. Forget, and J.-L. Bertaux, published in the 30 September 2011 issue of Science.
ROFFMAN TEAM COMMENT: While this article does a good job of explaining how much water vapor exists at altitudes over Mars, and how some of that water vapor would break down into hydrogen and oxygen before escaping to space, it makes no effort to identify (the obviously underground) places that are the sources of the water.
Figure 5: Spirit Rover Tracks. The tracks look like they are wet. This was matched with MSL where 2 pints of water was found in every cubic foot of soil. The sky color here does NOT match the blue sky seen by MSL at Gale Crater. We believe the color shown here is wrong. This image is the 'Santa Anita' Panorama from the JPL MER website: http://marsrover.nasa.gov/gallery/panoramas/spirit/2004.html "acquired from a position roughly three-fourths the way between "Bonneville Crater" and the base of the "Columbia Hills." "
So who else thinks the water is still on Mars underground? Well, actually a story was published in Time Magazine by Jeffrey Kluger – their senior editor for overseas science and technology reporting - on March 11, 2013. He cites a new study, led by geologist Gareth Morgan of the Smithsonian Institution. The study relied on new readings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) which has been circling Mars since 2006. The surveys include dry sea-beds, riverways, and flood channels all over Mars that testify to a wet and turbulent past. Near the end of the article he states:
“Most dramatic of all was not the how of the flooding but the when—and the when was extremely recent. The age of surface features on worlds can be determined by the simple expedient of counting craters… heavily cratered surfaces are typically old; ones with fewer craters have been resurfaced comparatively recently… In the case of Martes Valles, there appear to have been two episodes of volcanic resurfacing—one 500 million years ago and one just 10 million years ago. The flood channels cut into the older of the two and are partly obscured by the younger. “So the flooding is framed by those dates, taking place sometime between 10 and 500 million years back,” says Morgan.
Given the size of Mars, it’s all but certain that its core is still radioactively and gravitationally hot, meaning that volcanism should be continuing up to the present, and indeed some eruptions have been dated from as little as 2.5 million years ago. This makes future eruptions likely—and means future floods are a real possibility. Judging partly by the volume of water spilled during the Martes Vallis event and partly by the fact that the upwelling flood did not cause the surrounding landscape to collapse, Morgan speculates that there could be a layer of water stretching across much or even all of Mars, at a stable depth of 5 to 10 mi. (8 to 16 km). It could be ice, slush or water, depending on how much lava and heating any one region gets. And as we’ve learned from Earth’s polar regions, as long as you’ve got water, extreme cold is no bar to life.”
If this is so, then Mars MAVEN may be looking in the wrong place. It can measure what is high, but not what is underground. Frankly, NASA now says that what was found at Gale Crater is likely to be true all over the planet. It is wet just below the surface everywhere or at least over a very wide area. This comes as no surprise to us here. We have long observed tracks of earlier rovers and noted that they seem to expose wet material just under the surface. So the real question may be not Mars how lost its oceans, but why they sank. The Torah Code matrix at the start of this article cites waters gathered to one place. On Mars now that place is underground, not out in space where MAVEN will search. What us needed are seismic portraits of Mars. The density on that planet (3,933 kg/m3) is a good bit less than on Earth (5,514 kg/m3), which may imply vast pockets of space and/or abundant water under the surface.