New information from NASA’s Curiosity rover suggests that the atmosphere of Mars is related to the planet’s crust. The gasses on the planet can shed light on the interaction between the two. Scientists point out that the key elements in their research are krypton and xenon.
Scientists were highly interested in the changes through which the atmosphere of Mars has been throughout the centuries. The information provided by the Curiosity rover show that there are some differences in the variations of krypton and xenon found on the Red Planet. It seems like the composition of Mars’ atmosphere was highly influenced by the interaction of these two chemical elements.
The data from specialists shows that Xenon has no less than nine isotopes, and they are all different. Analyses revealed there is a higher level of some of them on the planet. The same goes for krypton too, which has six isotopes and they are not equally distributed on Mars.
Researchers also came up with an explanation for the phenomenon. Some of the isotopes originate from the rocks located at the surface of the Red Planet’s crust. The isotopes were released due to the action of cosmic rays on the surface of Mars. Then a chemical process occurs, called neutron capture. Through this process elements can release neutrons, which attach themselves to other elements.
Previous studies on the subject estimated different levels of krypton and xenon on the Red Planet. However, the samples from NASA’s Curiosity show the real ratios. In order to detect the isotopes, the rover used a special technique, which is called static mass spectrometry.
Pamela Conrad was the main author of the new study. She is aware of the importance of the Curiosity mission, including SAM, which is short for Sample Analysis at Mars. She states the following:
“SAM’s measurements provide evidence of a really interesting process in which the rock and unconsolidated material at the planet’s surface have contributed to the xenon and krypton isotopic composition of the atmosphere in a dynamic way.”
Curiosity proved its efficiency on different occasions, by providing scientists with useful information. The discovery of oxygenated manganese on the Red Planet is also due to the rover. However, the analysis of krypton and xenon is important for researchers because it helps them determine details on the evolution of the planet. By extending the study, the theories could also apply to other planets.
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