Monday, October 12, 2015

Mars Updates and Antarctica

   Mars Updates and Antarctica

   Over the past few weeks, NASA has released several important updates about the atmospheric conditions of Mars. These developments and their relation to the BU Antarctic Research Group's (BUARG) work in Antarctica have me very excited. 

Image from Curiosity Rover. Image credit: NASA
 First, NASA announced that precipitated salts found on Martian slopes demonstrated that water has recently been flowing on the Red Planet. Then, NASA announced that its Curiosity rover discovered evidence for ancient (billions of years ago) lakes on Mars. These discoveries have profound implications for the search for (ancient) life on Mars, the study of the Martian climate, and the investigation of the planet by future rovers and even humans. Personally, though, what I find most exciting about these discoveries is the opportunities my peers and I have to contribute to such important and exciting discoveries.
   As I have described in previous blogs, Antarctica is the closest terrestrial analog we have to Mars. BUARG's research of Antarctica can therefore inform investigations of Mars' climatic history. We can study firsthand water flows like those announced by NASA to determine their causes, behavior, and effects on the environment. We also study many same geomorphological features used to conclude the existence of ancient oceans on Mars. By applying knowledge acquired first-hand in Antarctica, we may better be able to explain certain features on Mars, and by extension, develop a greater understanding of our planetary neighbor. So, while I am as excited as everybody else about NASA's incredible discoveries millions of miles away, I am even more excited about being able to contribute to such discoveries from our own planet.

P.S. The movie The Martian was also released in the past week. It is worth noting that prepping astronauts like Mark Watney for Mars may involve training in Antarctica! Another reason to be excited about Antarctic research!

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