The mysteries of Mars consistently fascinate scientists and astronomy enthusiasts. The planet Mars has been an online trending topic for a week, due to the Curiosity Mars rover celebrating its fifth year on the red planet. The main goals are to discover if Mars has ever supported life and if it can be made suitable for human life. Before getting the answers to those questions, one must initiate self-discovery and unravel the mysteries of Mars.
Mysteries of Mars: What is the Source of Methane?
On Earth, the production of methane comes from cows, pigs, volcanic activity, and many other sources. But that does not tell us the source of methane on Mars. The Guardian reports the Curiosity Mars rover observed methane spikes that have no geologic or organ origins. Scientists believe methane is being manufactured internally from an underground source. Satellites have detected methane on the surface of Mars before, but a spike was found near the famed Gale crater, which suggests that the water had been present on the planet.
Another source of these spikes could be the Sun degrading materials that may have been left behind from past meteors. However, with that theory in mind, there would need to be an additional source to cause prominent methane spikes in addition to meteor deposits.
Mysteries of Mars: Was the Red Planet Sky Once Blue?
Mashable states that millions, possibly billions of years ago, Mars contained a lush environment with floral, fauna, blue skies, and white clouds. The Curiosity rover discovered an ancient riverbed inside the Gale crater where water continuously flowed. From space, formed coastlines, gullies, and riverbeds can be spotted, in addition to the Vastitas Borealis basin at the north pole.
Mysteries of Mars: A Vast Ocean
According to NASA, once they measured water signatures in the air on Mars, it revealed the planet once contained an ocean that was larger and deeper than the Atlantic Ocean. The northern hemisphere of the planet was completely covered in water over four billion years ago.
In 2016, the lander mission InSight will be traveling to Mars to examine below the surface by doing some deep underground digging. The purpose of the mission is to seek understanding of climate changes environmental characteristics, geology, and biology on Mars.
With Mars being the most Earth-like planet in our solar system, it is not far-fetched to believe Mars is was once similar to our planet, but if that is the case, how did Mars transform from blue to red?
Mysteries of Mars: What Happened To The Water?
Quartz explains that NASA is under the impression that it may have solved the mystery of what happened to the Martian atmosphere, and it dried up. Around four billion years ago, strong solar winds evaporated the Martian atmosphere and blew it into space. The MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) spent 12 months orbiting Mars and realized that solar winds and storms literally zap atmospheric particles into orbit. This is due to the thin magnetic field that is hovering over the red planet.
Although Earth is closer to the Sun, it has a magnetic field that is five times stronger than Mars. This is why our atmosphere has yet to deteriorate.
Mysteries of Mars: Phobos the Moonlet
Mars has two twin moons, Phobos and Deimos. Really the proper term for these two would be moonlets due to their potato-like shape. Phobos is the larger of the two with Deimos being slightly smaller. However, Phoebus has left NASA scratching their heads as they have yet to determine where both Moons come from or how they were formed.
Bibliotecapleyades recalls the strangest mystery of Phobos that involves Russian Phoebus space probes Phoebus one and Phoebus two. Phoebus one was lost en route to the Moon possibly due to a coordinate error. Phoebus two is the bigger mystery as it arrived safely on Mars in 1989, only to disappear days later. Scientists still don’t know how or why this happened.
The many mysteries of Mars do not stop here. Every day, scientists and astronomers are learning more about our neighboring planet. It’s clear that water once existed, and where there is water, there is life, but where has it gone? Has it gone underground? Into the mountains? NASA predicts we should have concrete answers to the origin of Mars within five years.
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[Photo by ESA Handout/Getty Images]