NASA has discovered unexpected and unexplained changes in oxygen on Mars.
The discovery comes after the space agency used the Curiosity Rover to measure the seasonal changes in the gas filling the air above the Gale crater on Mars, the first time ever.
But the data returned from the planet has amazed the scientists who received it. There is no known explanation for the unusual fluctuations in the oxygen content on the planet.
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"The First When we saw it, it was just mind-blowing," said Sushil Atreya, professor of climate and space sciences at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. As oxygen also indicates, the amount of gas increases and decreases in a seemingly random manner, for which scientists have no reason.
During the study, during which the air was on Mars over a period of three Martian years or just under six Earth years ago, scientists found that gases such as nitrogen and argon behave predictably throughout the year. The proportion of gas increases and decreases in proportion to the amount of carbon dioxide, which makes up 95 percent of the Martian air.
They assumed that oxygen would undergo the same changes. But they were shocked to discover that it actually did rise in the spring and summer with a different amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, suggesting that it was produced and then removed from the air.
Researchers were so shocked by the results that they first checked the accuracy of the instrument used to determine the data, but found that it worked flawlessly. Other possible explanations based on what we know about the Martian atmosphere were also considered but rejected.
"We're trying to explain that," said Melissa Trainer, a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "The fact that oxygen behavior is not perfectly reproducible in every season suggests that it is not an atmospheric problem, it must be a chemical source and sink that we can not yet explain." 19659078] The similarities between the mystery of Mars methane and Mars oxygen could be more than a coincidence, scientists speculate. It is possible that both have the same cause that has not yet been identified.
"We begin to observe this tantalizing correlation between methane and oxygen for much of the Martian year," Atreya said. "I think there's something in there, I just do not have any answers, nobody knows."
Scientists now hope to continue measuring the atmosphere to try to solve the mystery of oxygen.
"This is the first time we have seen this interesting behavior over several years, we do not quite understand it," said Coach.
"For me, this is an open call to all the intelligent people out there who are interested in: See what you can come up with."
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