March 19, 2009

Mars Express finds depositional process

The European Space Agency says its Mars Express spacecraft has discovered some depositional process in Mars' equatorial regions.

Scientists said the geological evidence, revealed by erosion, comes from the mineralogical composition of the Aram Chaos region, a crater about 175 miles in diameter located nearly directly on the martian equator.

The ESA said the spacecraft's instrumentation suggests a significant amount of sulfates and ferric oxides. On Earth, ferric oxide is more commonly known as rust. Although the bright red dust covering much of the planet is enriched in ferric oxides, the space agency said the dark deposits of Aram Chaos indicate a four-fold increase in the spectral signature of ferric oxides, revealing a specific concentration mechanism.

The phenomenon is not unique to the Aram Chaos region since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's rover Opportunity discovered ferric oxide deposits in Meridiani Planum, about 600 miles away, thereby linking widely separate areas of the planet.

The findings are reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research.