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A Third of Mars Could Have Been Underwater

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the younger-hotter-ocean-that-is dept.

Mars 167

Matt_dk writes "An international team of scientists who analyzed data from the Gamma Ray Spectrometer onboard NASA's Mars Odyssey reports new evidence for the controversial idea that oceans once covered about a third of ancient Mars. 'We compared Gamma Ray Spectrometer data on potassium, thorium and iron above and below a shoreline believed to mark an ancient ocean that covered a third of Mars' surface, and an inner shoreline believed to mark a younger, smaller ocean.'"

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To prove it... (5, Funny)

FungusCannon (1408259) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801309)

It's gonna be a pain in the ass to get one of those rovers up to 88 miles per hour.

Re:To prove it... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25801813)

Wait until we find signs of human civilization there and discover they made a last ditch effort to escape their destructive lifestyle by migrating to a new planet they called Earth.

Re:To prove it... (3, Interesting)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802679)

Interesting hypothesis.

I have recently read a book that was supposedly written by an alien. He claimed that: the Moon is empty inside and is a home to a race of living beings that are on a very high level of spiritual evolution, the global warming is caused solely by the sun (and the other planets of the solar system are warming up too), that there was a very advanced (more advanced than ours, both technologically and spiritually) civilization on Earth millenia ago, that vanished due to a world war in which nuclear weapons were used, that the fact that Mesopotamian or Aztec civilizations seemed to appear "out of nowhere" is due to the survivors of the ancient WW, the lack of visible "side effects" (radiation) of the WW is due to a terraforming technology that involved "changing the atomic state of chemical elements by shooting out protons and electrons using condensed streams of photons" (or however someone more fluent in English would translate this from Polish), which is the technology we are going to use to recover Earth after World War III (which is going to start in a few decades), that humans are the only race in our galaxy that does not preserve their memories during reincarnation (this ought to be a side effect of an artificial "law of Karma", and could be undone if we wish to), that there is a great disproportion between the state of our technological and spiritual advancement (again, the greatest in the galaxy), that we are in a constant danger from a few alien races that would want us dead (they're supposed to have weapons that could destroy souls -- a final death, reincarnation impossible) and Earth exploited to their benefit, that the "Galactic Union" is taking great measures to fend them off until we are able to defend ourselves, that aliens are not going to reveal themselves, because in the past such events started a few religious cults (which are the sources of religion on our planet, and that our planet is the only one on which religion ever happened -- everyone else just *knows* that reincarnation is happening, because they're *experiencing* it), and that the US government (or rather: whoever runs the government) is planning a *fake* "alien invasion", using their own half-baked UFOs to attack the Earth (and then take over all the armies of the world to "fend off" the fake attack, and then create a worldwide regime) -- as of the last one, I wouldn't be surprised -- the ground is already being prepared, see all the /. threads about surveillance, taking away our freedom, etc.

My opinion: even if this is bullshit, every good lie has a kernel of truth in it. I'm going to sit and observe, and take action if some of the things that that (supposed) alien is claiming would turn out to be true.

Re:To prove it... (4, Funny)

tmosley (996283) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802807)

My son, I welcome you to into the fold of scientology.

ALL HAIL XENU.

Re:To prove it... (-1, Troll)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25803101)

Err, I see a small difference between: being interested in a book, waiting and seeing if it's going to be true, and: taking part in an aggressive, greedy, mind-washing cult that is no less hypocritical than the Catholic Church (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Zone_(Scientology) ). Maybe you should get an idea of what Scientology is?

I'm equally against all religions, including atheism.

Re:To prove it... (3, Informative)

avgjoe62 (558860) | more than 5 years ago | (#25804425)

Don't make me come out there and beat you with the sarcasm tag... Kids these days. Can't recognize a smart ass when they come and slap them in the face.

Re:To prove it... (3, Interesting)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 5 years ago | (#25803195)

"My opinion: even if this is bullshit, every good lie has a kernel of truth in it." The only thing with even a ghost of truth in that is that you can measure the sun's contribution to global warming by looking at temperatures and/or reflected light from other worlds. This has been done. The sun's output is very close to constant.

Re:To prove it... (0)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25804071)

Dunno, do you have any references about the warming? Any reason why the scientists shouldn't fake the results to get more funding?

The fake UFO attack sounds somewhat probable. After all that's what I'd do if I had a few spare aircrafts that look alien enough, a few spare bucks in one hand, US govt in another, and an ambition of taking over the world. I think we'll have interesting times watching how Obama is going to perform as the president.

An ancient, advanced civilization on Earth also sounds reasonable (in this context of course). From what I know about Mesopotamia, it really looks like the civilization happened "out of nowhere". Also the Aztecs - the "official" story talks about Bering Strait, but if I were Indians, I wouldn't bother migrating that far to the south to form a civilization there, I'd just settle on the north -- please notice, the Aztec civilization seems *much* older than their northern cousins.

As I said, I'm not going to believe any of this until I see enough evidence (and I don't think it'll show up any time soon, if it would at all). But the book was still nice to read (the supposed alien had many interesting and somewhat enlightening views on politics and ethics, a few chapters were about life on his planet, and he underlined many times that he doesn't give a fuck if anyone believes him, and he'd be even happier if nobody would believe and instead would think for himself, and that his primary goal was to inspire, not teach. The book would still be great even with a clear "SF" label on it).

Re:To prove it... (1)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 5 years ago | (#25805025)

I can't find a freely available reference. The abstract of this one demonstrates the principle though article [sciencedirect.com]

The reason why nobody will fake a result is because light measurement experiments are far too easy to replicate with cheap equipment. Being caught would be a near certainty.

Crazy!!! (1)

Comboman (895500) | more than 5 years ago | (#25803919)

I have recently read a book that was supposedly written by an alien. He claimed that: the Moon is empty inside...global warming is caused solely by the sun...advanced civilization on Earth millenia ago...terraforming technology...constant danger from alien races that would want us dead...weapons that could destroy souls...Galactic Union...US government is planning a *fake* "alien invasion".

This is the craziest thing I ever read. Everyone knows the scientific consensus is that global warming is caused entirely by human activity. The rest of it seems plausible though.

Re:To prove it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25803309)

I made this comment trying to be humorous (original mod on the comment) rather than insightful (the current). I guess if others want to take it on another spin, go for it.

Re:To prove it... (1)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25804375)

Well, once I've been modded troll, flamebait, insightful, informative, interesting and funny (each of these a couple of times), all in one post (the post was somewhat controversial, but I clearly stated that it was merely my own opinion -- but, sadly, most people seem not to get the difference between a fact and an opinion). Since then, slight disagreements between /. mods no longer surprise me.

Re:To prove it... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25802063)

Never mind that, just try getting 1.21 jiggerwatts out of those solar panels.

Re:To prove it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25802275)

1.21 GIGAWATTS?!?!!? GREAT SCOTT!!!!!!!!!!

Never mind that, just try getting 1.21 jiggerwatts out of those solar panels.

Never mind that, just try getting 1.21 jiggerwatts out of those solar panels.

Never mind that, just try getting 1.21 jiggerwatts out of those solar panels.

Re:To prove it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25802537)

That whoosh you can hear is my joke going over your head.

The morons in the movie pronounced it "jiggerwattts".

Re:To prove it... (1)

OctaviusIII (969957) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802765)

Tisk tisk, it's because the physicist that came on-set to talk about this sort of thing pronounced it 'jiggawatts'. He, my friend, is the moron, and after they found out it should be 'gigawatts', they decided it would be better to just be consistent.

Re:To prove it... (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#25804131)

One point twenty one jiggawatts!?! That'd take a lightning strike! They don't have many of those on Mars... or clock towers, for that matter.

What is The Truth about Mars? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25801311)

Scientists studying spacecraft images have a hard time confirming âoeshorelineâ landforms, the researchers said, because Mars shorelines would look different from Earthâ(TM)s shorelines. Earthâ(TM)s coastal shorelines are largely a direct result of powerful tides caused by gravitational interaction between Earth and the moon, but Mars lacks a sizable moon. Another difference is that lakes or seas on Mars could have formed largely from giant debris flows and liquefied sediments. Still another difference is that Mars oceans may have been ice-covered, which would prevent wave action.

So it's a long shot, but what we know is that water definitely existed on Mars, so it's not that much of a long shot. We may have in our possession, evidence that a global calamity destroyed Mars in the way that the Earth will be destroyed in the galacticly near future. Perhaps the planets are getting closer to the Sun with each passing year? Whatever caused the devastation on Mars, could be avoided on Earth with the correct approach to discovering the truth.

mod parent up! (1)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801379)

Fascinating! The planets could be operating in stages. I wonder if there is something at the end of our solar system creating planets? That can't be true because of Pluto's declassification.

Re:mod parent up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25803551)

Pluto just need to gang up with some asteroids, then it can easily pass as a planet.

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801483)

The planets are getting closer to the sun, but not nearly fast enough to be interesting.

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (3, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801557)

> The planets are getting closer to the sun, but not nearly fast enough to be interesting.

You mean interesting as in "Hmmm, we might want to have some means of space exploration in the next century at the latest" or interesting as in "My hair is on fire! My hair is on fire!".

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (4, Interesting)

SBacks (1286786) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801885)

You mean interesting as in "Hmmm, we might want to have some means of space exploration in the next century at the latest"

A century is a very short amount of time on the solar timeline. The Earth won't fall into the Sun for 5 billion years or so, and even then, the Sun will have lost enough mass that models predict the Earth may be flung off into deep space rather than falling into the Sun.

The more immediate concern is that over the next 1 billion years, the luminosity of the Sun will increase about 10% or so, which should be fairly devastating to life on Earth. But, thats due to the Sun getting older, not the Earth getting closer.

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (1)

daedae (1089329) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801997)

By falling into the sun, do you actually mean the planets are on more of a inward-spiral orbit than an elliptical orbit, or just that the sun will expand over time? (The latter, I'm assuming.)

Of course, the earth breaking free of the sun's gravity and drifting off into space, with or without the moon, would be just as much of an end of life on Earth as being burned up by the sun.

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802105)

Usual theory is that orbits stay constant (since mass is basicly constant) but the radius of the Sun expands past the current orbit consuming the planet it it's firey corona of love.

I also don't think getting flung off will be the end of life on the planet. I mean just look at the last time [wikipedia.org] it happened.

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802737)

I mean that the planets are on an inward-spiral orbit. While ideally they would keep perfect elliptical orbits, solar wind pushes them outward and drag caused by the matter in space pushes them inward (well, decreases their velocity, which causes them to fall inward). I forget the rate for this, but I do recall it's so slow that everything else interesting in the solar system (e.g., the Sun entering the later stages of life) will happen first.

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (1)

c0p0n (770852) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802123)

Methinks 1 billion years is slow enough for life to slowly adapt, and habitats to change, to the new conditions; I don't see what devastation could happen because of this (apart from progressive change).

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (3, Interesting)

cnettel (836611) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802317)

At some point we have massive evaporation, which would tend to go catastrophic, i.e. Venus (water vapor is extremely potent as a greenhouse gas). A temperature above which proteins in most organisms coagulate would bring us down to archea. Photosynthesis in its current form also prefers lower temperatures. We know very little of what situations complex multicellular life can really adapt to, but we can say that Earth would no longer be within the range that we consider to be habitable when we do armchair analyses of exoplanets.

It's not life as we know it, Jim.

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25802207)

>he more immediate concern is that over the next 1
> billion years, the luminosity of the Sun will
> increase about 10% or so, which should be fairly
> devastating to life on Earth.

Then we just move to Venus, which is closer and will therefore be warmer.

Just like we moved from Mars to Earth when it got too cold there.

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802611)

Yes, we are all concerned that in 1 billion years it will get 10% hotter on the earth. Let me stock up on sun-screen in case the my local grocery store runs out.

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#25803077)

A century is a very short amount of time on the solar timeline. The Earth won't fall into the Sun for 5 billion years or so, and even then, the Sun will have lost enough mass that models predict the Earth may be flung off into deep space rather than falling into the Sun.

I just wanted to expand on this to add a bit more perspective. We're talking about something that might happen 5 billion years from now. The Earth itself isn't even 5 billion years old (it's estimated at 4.5-4.6 billion years old).

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (1)

citizen_senior (1372475) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802109)

I don't have much hair left, you insensitive clod you !

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801875)

And Mars is further from the Sun than Earth is, so if getting closer was the problem then we would have a much larger version of the problem already.

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25801529)

damn you're stupid.

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25802169)

If grandparent is stupid and stupidity is clearly hereditary, does that mean you are stupid as well, and, by *obvious* consequence, so am I?

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25802867)

you are a moron, squared. oh, and I was adopted.

Re:What is The Truth about Mars? (2, Informative)

JerryLove (1158461) | more than 5 years ago | (#25804549)

Whatever caused the devastation on Mars, could be avoided on Earth with the correct approach to discovering the truth.

Mars is devistated?

Mars has no water/atmosphere because A)It is small and B)It lacks a magnetosphere (which is because its core has cooled which is 1) because it is small and 2) because it lacks a large moon). With no pressure, water sublimates. With no tectonic activity to introduce more, and less gravity to attract more from space, it dried up. Distance+no greenhousing also means its cold.

For the reasonable future, Earth has none of these problems. Our current threat is "random catastrophy" or "runaway greenhouse" (look at Venus, not Mars). If we get past those, then we can worry about (as mentioned by someone else) the increasing luminosity of the sun.

What's next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25801319)

As long as we don't get a mix of Water World and Red Planet in theatres anytime soon, I will be able to sleep at night.

Question: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25801323)

Are these the same scientists who deny the _possibility_ of a global flood on Earth?

Your thinking (2, Funny)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801365)

Your thinking and opinions are positively antediluvian.

For what it's worth, I don't think scientists deny the possibility of a global flood. They just don't see much evidence for it.

Re:Your thinking (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801503)

Didn't you mean "any evidence for it"?

Re:Your thinking (4, Funny)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801777)

Eh, whatever. Mostly it was about using the word antediluvian.

Re:Your thinking (1)

SBacks (1286786) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801933)

To be fair, there is some evidence for a global flood. All you have to do is look on the tops of various mountain ranges and you'll find plenty of fossils and minerals to indicate is was underwater at one point.

Of course, you have to ignore the fact that it can all be explained by plate tectonics.

Re:Your thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25802189)

To be fair, there is some evidence for a global flood. All you have to do is look on the tops of various mountain ranges and you'll find plenty of fossils and minerals to indicate is was underwater at one point.

Of course, you have to ignore the fact that it can all be explained by plate tectonics.

Yes, ignoring the facts always makes things easier to believe.

Re:Your thinking (1)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 5 years ago | (#25803955)

The funny thing about facts are that they are not necessarily true. Facts are created (fact come from the Latin facere "to do" or "to make"; hence the word "manufacture") by people. Truth is separate from facts. Facts may be true or may closely approximate the truth but they are not the same.

My point is that "ignoring the facts" does not mean that someone is wrong, or what they say is untrue. Note: I'm not attacking science, I am a scientist. I'm just bringing a little philosophy of science (thinking critically about science) into the discussion. I am however, contradicting the view that many people have that fact == truth.

Re:Your thinking (1)

weetabeex (1065032) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802203)

Or, maybe, all those fossils once lived on earth, along with their happy mineral friends, but once everybody else decided to come to land and start evolvig, they decided to be different and go back to the sea?

It seems pretty plausible to me.

Yes, but... (3, Funny)

verbalcontract (909922) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801325)

Yes, but what percentage of Mars was covered with buggalo [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Yes, but... (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801535)

The same part that they found a strange sign that said "You came to the Wong place".

Potassium Salts (5, Informative)

praedictus (61731) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801421)

Makes some sense to see potassium anomalies in the old basins if there was water there which has since been evaporated, with the concentration increasing toward the centres, as potassium salts are somewhat more soluble than their sodium equivalents, theyd be the last left to precipitate out. Thorium on the other hand is usually residual, at least here on Earth, and tends to concentrate along shorelines and riverbeds due its high density and low solubility.

This is all quite simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25801511)

Mars is part of a Beowulf cluster of planets

Dross (2, Interesting)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801563)

We are living on dross, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dross the impurities on the surface of a molten ball of nickel/iron
that takes billions of years to cool, geologically speaking.

Global cooling is the long range prognosis for us, just as Mars. Mars gets less solar power, being more distant from the sun.
Mars HAD an earth-similar composition 2 billion years ago. It is what the Earth will look like in the future. Deal with it.

Re:Dross (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25801631)

Apparently you do know how to get a rover to 88 MPH.

I do (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801681)

But the 'plate tectonics' that are the impurities that form during the cooling process make for a bumpy
ride, and unless massive 'terraforming' does occur, there will not be any flat, smooth land to accelerate upon to reach
that speed. Sadly.

Tom Swift had the answer, but he did not know the question.

Re:Dross (1)

M-RES (653754) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801787)

Is this a snide comment about the performance of cars from the erstwhile British car manufacturer? ;)

Re:Dross (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25801905)

and he has a flux capacitor to go with it.

take care with hononyms :) (2, Funny)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 5 years ago | (#25804025)

We are living on dross

I didn't know six and a half billion of people live in a small Austrian municipality. It must be really all too crammed up there, probably worse than HK. But at least all enjoy living in the birthplace of a music composer.

Re:Dross (1)

MikeURL (890801) | more than 5 years ago | (#25804907)

When you put it that way it seems even more odd that we're not powering our civilization with geothermal energy. It is almost like we started to drill and stopped at the first thing that we could burn and now we're determined to extract every last ounce of that before we consider drilling any deeper.

And in the meantime we're putting substances in the air that, all things being equal, we'd rather not be there. One need not be a global warming adherent to dislike fossil fuels. Smog and particulate pollution are plenty enough reason all on their own (not to mention heavy metals).

But the big question remains (1)

JackassJedi (1263412) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801581)

.Did they serve Pina Coladas at the beaches?

That makes sense (1)

aaron alderman (1136207) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801591)

Now I know where God got all that water from!

Re:That makes sense (1)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802913)

But where is it now?

Why water? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25801593)

I find it strange how many scientists insist on a water body to have carved the different features of Mars. The new theory of a really big impact as a source of the lowlands makes far more sense, explains the big "cracks" in the Mars surface far better, especially their alignment, and so on.

The "river beds" and "river deltas" can easily be explained with lava flow, especially after the planet heated up a lot due to the impact. The sediment layers may or may not be the remnants of vulcanism, asteroid impacts, storms, and so on.

As the planet seems to be pretty sandy, I suppose most water, if it was ever pushed to the surface by vulcanism or the likes, would probably faster sink down again then the lava needs to cool down.

Not to mention that I didn't find the connection with Thorium, Potassium, and Iron - do our volcanic-ridge-free oceans have similarily high concentrations of those? Or is it only the oceans with high volcanic activity? Are there other possible sources for those elements?

There are so many interesting planets - I find it unusual that so much money is used for this one, which is probably among the least likely to ever have had life. A rover (or similar) on all the planets and moons which are not too hostile for our level of technology would be much cooler, I think. Not to mention manned missions - I suppose establishing a permanent and fairly self-sufficient outpost on the moon or even Mars would be a million times more valuable to humanity then all the probes together...

Re:Why water? (2, Informative)

praedictus (61731) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801889)

Re Ocean ridge volcanics: The basalt and associated rock from spreading centres tend to be Low-K, Low Th and high Fe. Potassium and Thorium in igneous rocks tend to be associated with granites or the types of volcanoes that go "BOOM!" rather than produce extensive flows.

Re:Why water? (1)

MikeURL (890801) | more than 5 years ago | (#25804947)

You mean the ARMY of geologists looking at the data have more than just "looks like a riverbed to me!" to back up their assertion? Shocking I tell you.

Underwater? (1)

homey of my owney (975234) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801637)

This financial crisis is even worse than we thought!

Google Mars (1)

bizitch (546406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801645)

Check out Google Mars!

http://www.google.com/mars/ [google.com]

How cool is Google?

Re:Google Mars (2, Funny)

BenphemeR (1301865) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801701)

meh, it's just the same image over and over. Zoom all the way out.

Re:Google Mars (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801841)

Is that a joke?

I'm fairly certain that if you looked at the Earth and kept panning east or west, you'd see the same image over and over. Try it with Google Maps. [google.com]

Re:Google Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25801911)

Globes ------>

Your head

;P

Re:Google Mars (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801915)

That's because it wraps around, just like their Earth and Moon maps do. That "same image" seems (to me) to be a mercator projection of the entire surface.

Re:Google Mars (1)

BenphemeR (1301865) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801963)

Apparently you didn't click the link. I wasn't talking about google earth. That however is amazing.

Re:Google Mars (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802429)

Apparently you don't recognize the scale here. It is the whole planet, wrapping around several times just do have something to display. If you zoom out Google Maps enough and have a large enough display (or zoom out in your browser as well), you will see the same image over and over. I currently have three instances of Eurasia on my Google Maps display (almost full screen 1920x1200).

Re:Google Mars (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802463)

Sorry, I meant Google maps. But I did click the link, and what I'm trying to tell you is that the "same image wrapping around" thing isn't them being lazy and using one small image. That is a map of the entire planet, wrapping around and stitched together. Google maps does the same thing if you zoom all the way out.

Why is it such a big deal? (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801765)

I mean... what difference does it make that mars once had liquid water? It doesn't now. Sure... discovery of liquid water _still_ being on mars would be a big deal because it would drastically simplify the process of human beings staying there for extended periods in possible future missions, but if Mars was once covered in water, and isn't anymore, what difference could this possibly make to us?

The argument that understanding the way Mars once was helps us understand ours own planet a lot better seems to me to be little more than a coverup for saying it just satisfies our intellectual curiosity, and it seems peculiar to me that something that is doing little else should be such a huge deal. And even if it were true, how we got to where we are today isn't nearly as important as what we are going to choose to do, today, with whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. I'm not advocating ignorance to history here... I think it's very important to learn history so that we can avoid repeating it where the circumstances would be undesirable, but Mars having water so long ago is outside the domain of our experience entirely, so what practical benefit does it serve to spend who knows much money on exploring the notion? If somebody can explain to me how knowledge about Mars once having water in the distant past would change the way that we perform some possible future Mars expedition, for example, I'd like to hear it.

Re:Why is it such a big deal? (1)

1stvamp (662375) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801895)

It doesn't.
And you know what? The fact that it doesn't change anything in the future doesn't matter either..new knowledge for the sake of learning is OK.
If it wasn't, then we would otherwise tend to miss a lot (and still do).

Re:Why is it such a big deal? (2, Insightful)

Mandelbrot-5 (471417) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802041)

The reason the people are researching this is intellectual curiosity, and for the grant money that pays the scientists bills. This information may or may not have any use to anyone alive today, but it is a part of the puzzle of how the universe works. Perhaps in the distant future, this information and countless other data points will help humanity solve some problem. Or it may be just a useless piece of trivia. The point is, we do not, nor can can we know what things we learn about our universe will be useful down the road. Better to collect all the observations we can in hopes that it will be of use.

Re:Why is it such a big deal? (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802273)

I mean... what difference does it make that mars once had liquid water? It doesn't now. Sure... discovery of liquid water _still_ being on mars would be a big deal because it would drastically simplify the process of human beings staying there for extended periods in possible future missions, but if Mars was once covered in water, and isn't anymore, what difference could this possibly make to us? ...
If somebody can explain to me how knowledge about Mars once having water in the distant past would change the way that we perform some possible future Mars expedition, for example, I'd like to hear it.

Well, if it once had liquid water, but now does not, where did it all go? Many theories suggest it's locked away in the polar icecaps and underground (permafrost, frozen underground lakes, etc). Knowing the planet once held water, and figuring out where it went, can help us figure out where it is now. And once we know where it is, getting to it is just engineering.

Two sides to this. (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802485)

First, as others have noted, there is a massive level of sheer scientific curiosity. Prior to this, we didn't know of any planet other than Earth that ever had liquid water on it. We had no idea if such planets were rare or common, or even how to identify them if the water wasn't extremely visible and obvious. This allows us to know so much more about planets and their evolution in early solar systems than we ever knew before.

Then, there is another side. Water, particularly if it is mildly acidic, leaves open the possibility of cave systems. Cave systems make manned exploration a more realistic possibility, as you're better shielded from cosmic radiation, much better shielded from dust devils, and have a (comparatively) easy environment to seal and pressurize.

Finally, the combination of a lower gravity and a lower air pressure (whilst a significant atmosphere lasted) may make for crystals that are very different from those that form naturally on Earth. They should be slightly higher purity, for a start. This would not pay for exploration of Mars, or even significantly offset the costs, but it might well intrigue enough of the uber-rich (who tend to like unique trinkets) to either coerce Governments to fund exploration or provide some of the money themselves, purely for the bragging rights of having superior-grade, all-natural, extraterrestrial gemstones.

Re:Why is it such a big deal? (1)

charlesj68 (1170655) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802759)

If somebody can explain to me how knowledge about Mars once having water in the distant past would change the way that we perform some possible future Mars expedition, for example, I'd like to hear it.

The desirability of finding surface water in the planetary history of Mars has nothing to do with future exploration or colonization of the planet by humans. Instead, it bears directly on the hopes of science to find that life has developed elsewhere in the universe than on Earth. Water is very crucial to the development of the life forms we are best familiar with, and Mars is similar enough to Earth to raise tantalizing possibilities should the prior constraints all be met.

Of course, it would be much *more* exciting if we could verify life outside the solar system. There is just enough chance that the solar wind or some spin-off chuck of meteorite ejecta from Earth could carry enough bacterium to seed Mars with a form of life, that we would still have doubts as to whether the life we found independently arose. But, Mars is close to us in stellar terms and the experiments are "easily" done, so we do them.

Maybe it might be easier to say Humanity is lonely, and we're really hoping that we're not the only ones in the bar.

Re:Why is it such a big deal? (1)

HellYeahAutomaton (815542) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802841)

You make a great point for the case in the general understanding of the difference between theory and application. Knowing higher level mathematics unto itself is like learning a language that is utterly useless, but when applied to problems can prove to be useful.

There are 5 definitions of science from Merriam-Webster and they all imply gaining knowledge. For the average person there is no direct utility in knowing whether or not there was life on Mars but if we were to apply our own earthly use of science we could classify found bacteria, plants, fossils etc into genus and phylum, and compare the chemical/genetic structures with the hope of greater understanding of them.

Some of the side effects of our space program were materials, fuels and technologies that everyone benefits from. The most an average person can hope to gain are the unintended benefits of greater knowledge as a result of the applications of that knowledge by engineers. Acquiring knowledge of water on Mars is directly tied to the concept of Basic Research.

  To answer your final question I think it requires a bit of foresight to think of it not as a "Mars Mission" but as a "Mars Migration and Population Strategy" and ask the following question:

"Is earth ever going to end up like Mars, and how could it happen?"

There are a lot of people out there clinging to these ideas that because of greenhouse gases and such we're "killing our planet". Perhaps they would be satiated by some evidence that what we are or are not doing is tied to it. The idea of terraforming another planet like Mars for any number of reasons (nuclear winter, overpopulation, etc) isn't nearly as far fetched now as it used to be.

There are almost 90 million square miles on Mars that could be thought of as an experimental playground or real estate.

SO WHAT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25801811)

SO WHAT!

Why controversial? (5, Interesting)

Tacubaruba (553520) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801865)

Haven't we gotten past the point where the idea of Mars once having lots of water is controversial? I mean, it seems as if every new piece of evidence points in that direction, so what exactly still makes it controversial?

Re:Why controversial? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25802671)

Haven't we gotten past the point where the idea of Mars once having lots of water is controversial? I mean, it seems as if every new piece of evidence points in that direction, so what exactly still makes it controversial?

A certain small subset of fanatics which in turn is a subset of a religion, decided that they will not let facts stand in their way, and thus decided that water on anywhere but earth is controversial.

No one really listens to them though, except possibly governments.

Re:Why controversial? (2, Insightful)

PolarBearFire (1176791) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802745)

Why controversial in the first place? Was there strong evidence that water never existed on Mars before? This is science, not religion. We believe whatever the data indicates, and if we are proven wrong, no biggie, science is served either way.

Re:Why controversial? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25804451)

I agree with your post, but the word "data" is plural; please use it as such.

Weird might be a better choice than controversial (4, Insightful)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 5 years ago | (#25805029)

The question is why Mars would have oceans then and not now. Put water on the surface today and that which doesn't freeze will evaporate due to the low atmospheric pressure. The atmospheric pressure is low because Mars doesn't have that strong a gravitational field to sustain an atmosphere. So the question becomes, how did Mars ever manage to have an ocean in the first place? It's not likely that it was more massive earlier on so it's not likely to have ever had an earth-like atmosphere that recycles the water back to the oceans. Sans gravity, you don't get a steady-state atmosphere. Sans atmosphere, you don't get to keep your water. Bottom line - it's a problem full of paradoxes. Weird.

My theory (2, Funny)

RemoWilliams84 (1348761) | more than 5 years ago | (#25801873)

I believe that the Earth used to be an asteroid hurtling through space. It then collided with Mars(which used to be in the orbit close to where Earth is today) and killed all life on Mars knocking it far off into orbit where it is today. Earth was then left with the tiny bacteria or rna or something frozen in it. It was later warmed and thawed by the Sun and that's how life was started on Earth. Too far fetched?

Re:My theory (1)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802253)

Too far fetched?

Yes...

I believe that...

Do you really? I actually really, REALLY hope not. "Playing with the idea" is alright (wrong, but nevertheless, alright), but actually believing it would be pretty sad.

It's a cute idea, but it's so far out of the realms of possibility due to the basic physics of what you're describing, the positions and orbits of the planets as they are, and just everything we know about how our solar system formed.

Re:My theory (2, Funny)

RemoWilliams84 (1348761) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802947)

If cheesey sci-fi movies have taught me anything, you will not be spared by the true Martians that escaped when the collision hit.

Re:My theory (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802461)

Yes.

Re:My theory (1)

weetabeex (1065032) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802593)

Too far fetched?

Maybe the bacteria bit of the story/theory.

Maybe it would have been even more astonishingly awesome if the once-martians would have jumped from their planet into this new one on-impact, but disposed of all their tools and superior knowledge had to go live in trees just like regular monkeys.

I guess your story/theory won't have much acceptance among darwinists.

Re:My theory (1)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25803447)

I have a different theory.

Look at this picture (the distances are on a logarithmic scale):

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/03/SolarSystemUnmarked.png

The distance between every Nth planet and the sun is always (a*(N**2))+(b*N)+c (I forgot the exact values of a,b,c but you can easily check this by yourself if you're interested), with one exception: the 5th planet between Mars and Jupiter, that has been (IMO) most probably destroyed.

There are of course theories that civilizations could have existed on all three (Earth, Mars, the 5th). Let's just not care about the reasons about why the hypothetical 5th planet could've been destroyed, if it was done by intelligent beings or if it was a natural catastrophe, or whatever else, let's just assume for a while that it somehow exploded:

I imagine that the blast could've destroyed life, oceans and atmosphere on Mars, and on Earth, caused what the Bible refers to as the Great Flood.

(disclaimer: I'm not Christian, nor a member of any other religion, before you all start bitching.)

Re:My theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25804679)

Thats the closest thing to explaining several scientific "problems" I've read about over the years. If you read scientific journals and digests one thing you come to find about solar astronomy is that there is a "gravity" spot missing. The planets shouldn't have aligned this way and what caused the moon to be here when it shouldn't have been. One theory is a missing planet that was impacted at some point.

Re:My theory (1)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25805153)

> what caused the moon to be here when it shouldn't have been.

Actually, the supposed alien I was talking about in this post:

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1033381&cid=25802679

has an elaborate explanation of all the moon-related anomalies. I would just simply cut&paste a quote from that book, but it probably would be of no use to most /.ers (because, it's, well, in Polish, and while it's my native language, I'm never good at translating stuff -- too much CPU overhead for my brain).

Also... some scientists argue that the mass of Jupiter could have probably caused the 5th planet to not form at all, the billions of years ago when our solar system formed itself, and the asteroids were there from the beginning. I think not; some of these asteroids have natural satellites of other asteroids (!), and that simply could not last for billions of years -- the tidal forces would crush the rocks after a mere few millions of years.

Re:My theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25804319)

I was watching a video http://fora.tv/2008/10/07/A_NASA_Scientist_Explains_How_the_Moon_was_Made
that says "Something the size of Mars struck the Earth to create the Moon"...

If the Earth or Mars were in an elliptical orbit, and they struck one another, you can wager that some of the elements from both planets rubbed off on one another, for instance, Water on Mars might have been stolen from Earth in the impact.

The impact could have caused Mars to shoot off and caused both planets to reside in their current orbit... Perhaps whats where the asteroid belt came from that is in between Earth and Mars.

Let's recap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25802017)

So, just to recap what we've learned about mars in the last few years...

Discovery #1: Rust is formed by metal coming in contact with water. Or oxidizing. Which is usually done by water.

Discovery #2: The surface of mars is covered in rust.

Today's Discovery: OMGBBQPONIES!!!111!! Mars may have had water!

My question is this: after billions upon billions (upon umpteen trillions) of dollars poured into both the US educational system and NASA, do you really mean to tell me that there is a single "high school graduate or better" who didn't see this coming? Seriously?

So, let me try to understand.... (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802655)

All other planets are inferior potassium.

New evidence (1)

AmigaMMC (1103025) | more than 5 years ago | (#25802695)

Seems that scientists are now certain of the existence of ancient oceans on Mars after one of the rovers found fossilized windsurfs and kiteboards, as well as oil rigs.

Younger Hotter? Still wouldn't swim in it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25803867)

I'm not sure that Hotter is correct... Perhaps a deathly cold ocean is more to the point... For I shall never take a dip in an ocean at -80 Celcius (according to latest now doomed Phoenix operation).

A third of mars was underwater... (1)

WDot (1286728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25804637)

But now that it's in outer space it's managed to stay dry.
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