Curiosity Finds Mars Crust Contributes To Atmosphere

By Rodney Rafols , Oct 01, 2016 03:00 AM EDT

Mars has an atmosphere, however thin it might be. Interest in Mars has been picking up as NASA and various business organizations plan to send manned missions to the planet. What they would face has to be determined as early as now, though, and one of the most important things that have to be known about the Red Planet is its atmosphere.

The NASA Curiosity rover has been roving Mars since 2012. One of its discoveries is that Mars' crust is contributing to its atmosphere. This has been done by analyzing the surface material of Mars as well as studying the gases that make up its atmosphere. Two of the gases that could be found in its atmosphere are xenon and krypton, according to Phys Org.

To gather data, Curiosity used its Sample Analysis at Mars or SAM. Through SAM, researchers then made a series of experiments measuring all the isotopes of xenon and krypton on Mars' atmosphere. The method used to test them is called static mass spectrometry.

Using the method, researchers have discovered that some isotopes were different from others. This difference has been attributed to neutron capture, wherein neutrons from one element could be transferred to another.

Specific isotopes were identified, such xenon-124 and xenon-126, which were formed from neutrons coming from barium. Krypton-80 and krypton-82 isotopes were formed with neutrons captured from bromine, as the International Business Times reports.

Scientists theorize that these isotopes might have been released into Mars' atmosphere following impacts on the surface or by gas escaping from the soil and rocks on its surface. The research has shown that the xenon and krypton isotopes found on Mars are different from those found in the Earth's atmosphere.

"What we found is that earlier studies of xenon and krypton only told part of the story," Pamela Conrad, lead author and SAM's deputy principal investigator at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said. She also said that with the SAM measurements it has provided researchers with an interesting look at how Mars' surface could have contributed much in its atmosphere.

The findings would be of great value as NASA and other organizations prepare for manned missions to Mars. Knowing what its atmosphere has would help in protecting people going there from situations that might be hazardous.

Mars will be the focus of space exploration soon, as mentioned by Elon Musk in a previous iTechPost report.

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