Sunday, July 29, 2007

NASA cable documentary on water on Mars

On Saturday, July 28, 2007 Arlington Public Schools broadcast the NASA film “Following the Water” (“Is Mars with Mer”?) (Mer means sea – Debussy’s La Mer) about the efforts by NASA scientists (including Steve Squyres) to locate water on Mars, conducted from JPL Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Southern California.

The effort was traced over several years, with many breathtaking shots of Mars, often looking a but like the Australian outback. Gradually the discovery of large amounts of sulfur in certain rocks, let to the conclusion of the presence of various iron sulfates with trapped water of hydration enclosed in the rock crystal structure (hydration is common in inorganic crystals). This was taken as strong evidence that the area was under water at one time, maybe relatively recently.

Mars probably lost most of its water and atmosphere because it is not big enough, as well as the lack of magnetic field.

This film makes a good supplement to the Disney IMAX film “Mars Rover,” reviewed here.

Research into Venus has suggested that the catastrophic runaway greenhouse effect leading to Dante’s Inferno temperatures might have happened somewhat quickly and relatively recently, maybe less than a billion years ago. Is that another “inconvenient truth” of what could happen to us? Could there have been a civilization there before?

Earlier (April 2007) on these blogs there was a report of other possible earthlike planets in the nearby Milky Way neighborhood.

Picture: No, not Mars, but near the Wichita River, west Texas

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