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Sunspot
Dec. 4, 2006

Dwayne Brown/Erica Hupp
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726/1237

Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-6278

MEDIA ADVISORY: M06-186

NASA SCHEDULES BRIEFING TO ANNOUNCE SIGNIFICANT FIND ON MARS

WASHINGTON - NASA hosts a news briefing at 1 p.m. EST, Wednesday, Dec.
6, to present new science results from the Mars Global Surveyor. The
briefing will take place in the NASA Headquarters auditorium located
at 300 E Street, S.W. in Washington and carried live on NASA
Television and www.nasa.gov.

The agency last week announced the spacecraft's mission may be at its
end. Mars Global Surveyor has served the longest and been the most
productive of any spacecraft ever sent to the red planet. Data
gathered from the mission will continue to be analyzed by scientists.


Panelists include:
- Michael Meyer -- Lead Scientist, Mars Exploration Program, NASA
Headquarters, Washington
- Michael Malin -- President and Chief Scientist, Malin Space Science
Systems, San Diego, Calif.
- Kenneth Edgett -- Scientist, Malin Space Science Systems
- Philip Christensen -- Professor, Arizona State University, Tempe,
Ariz.
monitorlizard
The presence of Philip Christensen (PI for TES) on the panel may indicate the discovery of a new spectral feature on Mars. That could be very interesting, and downright thrilling if CRISM and HiRISE follow up on it!
Tesheiner
I just found this while reading NASA Watch; perhaps it is related to Wednesday's briefing. Take it with A LOT of care; it might be just smoke.

Editor's note: According to an item first posted by Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine: "NASA is ready to announce major new findings about the presence of water currently emerging onto the surface of Mars.

http://www.nasawatch.com/archives/2006/12/...n_week_e_1.html
djellison
It's impossible to know where smoke ends and facts start with NW nowadays - it's turned into KC's personal ranting-blog instead of a reliable news source, a pity really. However the AW speculation is likely to be fairly sound.

Doug
AlexBlackwell
QUOTE (djellison @ Dec 4 2006, 11:51 PM) *
It's impossible to know where smoke ends and facts start with NW nowadays - it's turned into KC's personal ranting-blog instead of a reliable news source, a pity really. However the AW speculation is likely to be fairly sound.

As for Cowing's "ranting," what's really funny is this little bit:

QUOTE
Apparently some reporters were given access to embargoed information from the participants and NASA JPL while others were not. So much for providing equal access to all media. NASA is playing favorites once again.


I guess he hasn't been getting any rides on NASA One lately.

EDIT: Apparently, my original post has created some flak for Doug. Although this is a discussion forum, I should have stated what I thought was obvious, that that was my opinion, not Doug's. I apologize for any inconvenience to Doug or UMSF, both of whom/which I hold in high regard. For that reason, I've edited the statement by deleting a sentence. Hopefully, this will end the harangue Doug has been enduring from a certain person. Though I do stand by the "ranting" part cool.gif
AlexBlackwell
QUOTE (monitorlizard @ Dec 4 2006, 12:08 PM) *
The presence of Philip Christensen (PI for TES) on the panel may indicate the discovery of a new spectral feature on Mars. That could be very interesting, and downright thrilling if CRISM and HiRISE follow up on it!

Listen very carefully, and I mean carefully, to the very last bit of Christensen's recent interview on Planetary Radio (which was posted yesterday).
Sunspot
Gullies smile.gif
tglotch
A few points:

1) Remember that a TES "pixel" or footprint is 3 x 8 km, so any interesting region with a new spectral feature would have to be at least this big. Typically we like to see the same feature in a few pixels to believe that its really there. In addition, TES hasn't been mapping mineralogy for quite some time due to a "glitch" that has degraded the spectral data. Recently TES has been used for thermal inertia and atmospheric studies.

2) I don't know, because I haven't talked to him about it, but listening to the interview, I would guess that the gullies to which Phil was referring were those he discussed in a Nature (I think) paper a few years ago which also show a "pasted-on" terrain near the gullies which he hypothesized to be dust-covered snow. If there's a new major announcement regarding these gullies and MGS, its probably some new interesting MOC imagery.

but then again, I've been wrong before, so who knows?
AlexBlackwell
QUOTE (tglotch @ Dec 5 2006, 07:53 AM) *
2) I don't know, because I haven't talked to him about it, but listening to the interview, I would guess that the gullies to which Phil was referring were those he discussed in a Nature (I think) paper a few years ago which also show a "pasted-on" terrain near the gullies which he hypothesized to be dust-covered snow.

Hmmm... tongue.gif

I'm wondering if we should bone up Malin and Edgett's 2000 paper in Science, as well as Christensen's Nature paper.

Also, a 2003 PSRD release might be good reading.
ugordan
This definitely sounds like it belongs to a separate thread. It's urelated to the MGS mishap. And Alex, why do I get the distinct feeling you know something we don't? biggrin.gif
AlexBlackwell
Per Gordan's suggestion, I'll start a new thread on this topic and merge the other posts into it.

EDIT:

QUOTE (ugordan @ Dec 5 2006, 08:29 AM) *
And Alex, why do I get the distinct feeling you know something we don't? biggrin.gif

Like most people here, I'm just guessing. That said, I wonder if Christensen will mention his "THOR" mission concept tomorrow? cool.gif
AlexBlackwell
Leonard David has a brief blurb in his blog.
volcanopele
Maybe a gully seen recently but not seen in older MOC images? Phil Christensen could be there to present spectroscopy results of said "new" gully from TES or THEMIS.
AlexBlackwell
QUOTE (volcanopele @ Dec 5 2006, 10:31 AM) *
Maybe a gully seen recently but not seen in older MOC images? Phil Christensen could be there to present spectroscopy results of said "new" gully from TES or THEMIS.

You could be right. However, since we're just speculating, I'm wondering if, as tglotch alluded to above, Christensen might be there to discuss and expand on his gully formation model, as published in the Nature paper. And note that Christensen's results in 2003 were based not on THEMIS IR (let alone lower res TES) but rather on THEMIS VIS imagery, which gave a more synpotic view of the gully sites than MOC NA.

Again, just speculating, but maybe Malin and Edgett have detected noticeable changes in already-mapped gully sites and/or have added more gully sites to the existing database increasing the coverage over the mid-latitudes?

Whatever the results turn out to be, tomorrow should be interesting.

EDIT: One should note the fundamental difference between the Malin/Edgett model and Christensen's. In the former, a subsurface origin for the seeps, which implies near-surface reservoirs and/or aquifers, is posited; in the latter, basal melting from overlying snowpacks (due to Mars' obliquity excursions) is invoked. So if tomorrow's press conference is about gullies, and if Malin/Edgett and Christensen have come to some common view on the formation mechanism(s), that, in and of itself, is interesting.
JonClarke
QUOTE (AlexBlackwell @ Dec 6 2006, 01:03 AM) *
One should note the fundamental difference between the Malin/Edgett model and Christensen's. In the former, a subsurface origin for the seeps, which implies near-surface reservoirs and/or aquifers, is posited; in the latter, basal melting from overlying snowpacks (due to Mars' obliquity excursions) is invoked. So if tomorrow's press conference is about gullies, and if Malin/Edgett and Christensen have come to some common view on the formation mechanism(s), that, in and of itself, is interesting.


Why should they not both be right in different places?
AlexBlackwell
QUOTE (JonClarke @ Dec 5 2006, 08:47 PM) *
Why should they not both be right in different places?

That's certainly plausible, Jon, and I wouldn't be surprised if that is indeed the case.
MizarKey
I know that this group is usually great about posting highlights during the briefing, I was hoping this trend would continue as I'm blocked from watching anything by the network at my job. So please, keep a running thread about what's being said. Thanks in advance.
AlexBlackwell
It looks like the story is leaking out, no pun intended, courtesy of The Daily Mail.
ugordan
The Daily Mail:
QUOTE
Earlier this week the MOC took pictures of the NASA exploration vehicle rover Spirit on the planet's surface.

Hmmm....
Stu
Good old Daily Mail... can't be Michael Hanlon's piece, he knows his stuff. Some sausage-fingered staff writer has provided us with these nuggets...

NASA researchers have documented the formation of new craters on the plant's surface and found bright, light-coloured deposits in gullies that were not present in previous photos.

The "plant's " surface?!?!?!? They've spotted plants on Mars big enough to have craters on them! How the **** did the Vikings miss those?!? ohmy.gif

Earlier this week the MOC took pictures of the NASA exploration vehicle rover Spirit on the planet's surface.

MOC imaged Spirit? Wow, they kept that quiet.... Oops! Someone didn't do their research... wink.gif
tuvas
QUOTE (AlexBlackwell @ Dec 6 2006, 09:54 AM) *
It looks like the story is leaking out, no pun intended, courtesy of The Daily Mail.


Are you sure you can trust this source?

QUOTE
Earlier this week the MOC took pictures of the NASA exploration vehicle rover Spirit on the planet's surface.

Only last month British cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking advocated missions to other planets.


Is Stephen Hawking British? And MOC isn't working, let along taking a picture of Spirit... Unless....

ADDED: I guess I was wrong about Stephen Hawking. For some reason I never had thought of him as British... But he is...
Stu
More details...

Martian find raises chances of life
ALICIA CHANG
ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 6, 2006

LOS ANGELES - A provocative new study of photographs taken from orbit
suggests that liquid water flowed on the surface of Mars as recently as
several years ago, raising the possibility that the Red Planet could
harbour an environment favourable to life.

The crisp images taken by the Mars Global Surveyor do not directly show
water. Rather, they show apparently recent changes in surface features
that provide the strongest evidence yet that water even now sometimes
flows on the dusty, frigid world. Water and a stable heat source are
considered keys for life to emerge.

Until now, the question of liquid water has focused on ancient Mars, and
on the Martian north pole, where water ice has been detected. Scientists
have long noted Martian features that appear to have been scoured by
water or look like shorelines, and have tried to prove that the Red
Planet had liquid water eons ago.

"This underscores the importance of searching for life on Mars, either
present or past," said Bruce Jakosky, an astrobiologist at the
University of Colorado at Boulder, who had no role in the study. "It's
one more reason to think that life could be there.''

The new findings were published Wednesday in the journal Science and
NASA scheduled a news conference for Wednesday afternoon to announce the
results.

Oded Aharonson, an assistant professor of planetary science at the
California Institute of Technology, said that while the interpretation
of recent water activity on Mars was "compelling," it's just one
possible explanation. Aharonson said further study is needed to
determine whether the deposit could have been left there by the flow of
dust rather than water.

The latest research emerged when the Global Surveyor spotted gullies and
trenches that scientists believed were geologically young and carved by
fast-moving water coursing down cliffs and steep crater walls.

Scientists at the San Diego-based Malin Space Science Systems, who
operate a camera aboard the spacecraft, decided to retake photos of
thousands of gullies in search of evidence of recent water activity.

Two gullies that were originally photographed in 1999 and 2001 and
re-imaged in 2004 and 2005 showed changes consistent with water flowing
down the crater walls, according to the study.

In both cases, scientists found bright, light-colored deposits in the
gullies that weren't present in the original photos. They concluded the
deposits - possibly mud, salt or frost - were left there when water
recently cascaded through the channels.

The Global Surveyor, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
abruptly lost radio contact with Earth last month. Attempts to locate
the spacecraft, which has mapped Mars since 1996, have failed and
scientists fear it is unusable.

NASA's durable Mars rovers have sent scientists strong evidence that the
planet once had liquid water at or near the surface, based on
observations of alterations in ancient rocks.

"We're now realizing Mars is more active than we previously thought and
that the mid-latitude section seems to be where all the action is," said
Arizona State University scientist Phil Christensen, who was not part of
the current research.

Mars formed more than 4.5 billion years ago and scientists generally
believe it went through an early wet and warm era that ended after 1.5
billion to 2.5 billion years, leaving the planet extremely dry and cold.

Water can't remain a liquid for long because of subzero surface
temperatures and low atmospheric pressure that would turn water into ice
or gas.

But some studies have pointed to the possibility of liquid water flowing
briefly on the surface through a possible underground water source that
periodically shoots up like an aquifer.
imipak
QUOTE (Stu @ Dec 6 2006, 05:10 PM) *
Earlier this week the MOC took pictures of the NASA exploration vehicle rover Spirit on the planet's surface.

MOC imaged Spirit? Wow, they kept that quiet.... Oops! Someone didn't do their research... wink.gif


Oh, I'm not so sure of that... (though the Daily Mail, the original "fascist rag", is hardly a journal of record.) Steve Squyres did say that Spirit and environs was pretty high up the priority target lists. Unlike the VC image, I imagine there'd be no need to rush-release the image. I'm rather hoping it's both... perhaps a gully has appeared on the side of Husband Hill wink.gif

BTW - yes please, if anyone has access to NASA TV and feels like posting notes... please do! smile.gif
Stu
QUOTE (tuvas @ Dec 6 2006, 05:16 PM) *
Is Stephen Hawking British?


ohmy.gif ohmy.gif ohmy.gif

Does a bear [rest of post deleted]

wink.gif
Stu
Sorry, I didn't insert a "sarcastic g*t" icon when I said about them keeping quiet MOC imaging Spirit... biggrin.gif
tuvas
QUOTE (Stu @ Dec 6 2006, 10:17 AM) *
ohmy.gif ohmy.gif ohmy.gif

Does a bear [rest of post deleted]

wink.gif


I appologize, I guess he really is... Guess I should have looked that up myself before posting... Duh!
imipak
QUOTE (Stu @ Dec 6 2006, 05:20 PM) *
Sorry, I didn't insert a "sarcastic g*t" icon when I said about them keeping quiet MOC imaging Spirit... biggrin.gif


Oh, right, I see ... serves me right for posting without catching up with a weeks' backlog of unread posts! If only I didn't have to work, or sleep, or spend 2h a day driving...
elakdawalla
You probably thought he was American because his voice-generating computer was built by an American company -- so he has an American accent! He's also one of the few Brits who appears regularly on The Simpsons...

I don't see the Mars gullies story appearing on Science Express yet...

--Emily
AlexBlackwell
QUOTE (elakdawalla @ Dec 6 2006, 07:42 AM) *
I don't see the Mars gullies story appearing on Science Express yet...

Science (and Science Express) has an automated web management system that posts items when the embargo times out. Just keep hitting "Reload" or "Refresh." biggrin.gif
elakdawalla
It's typically more efficient for me to wait until you post a link here, Alex biggrin.gif

--Emily
ustrax
"MARS
Recent Activity Revealed"

That's the header... smile.gif
AlexBlackwell
QUOTE (elakdawalla @ Dec 6 2006, 07:55 AM) *
It's typically more efficient for me to wait until you post a link here, Alex biggrin.gif

Your wish is my command. biggrin.gif MSSS link.

EDIT: And I believe the paper will be published in the December 8, 2006, issue of Science.
ElkGroveDan
We now have a new unit of measure; Swimming Pools.
remcook
very nice summaries on the msss page. Something else to look at with more detail with HiRISE perhaps? smile.gif

edit-downloads on: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/main/index.html
tuvas
QUOTE (remcook @ Dec 6 2006, 11:15 AM) *
very nice summaries on the msss page. Something else to look at with more detail with HiRISE perhaps? smile.gif

edit-downloads on: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/main/index.html


I'd be willing to bet that it's far more likely to have CRISM follow up then HiRISE, although HiRISE will almost certainly photograph these areas quite soon (I have no idea when, so...)
Analyst
A very good press confernce, good questions.

I have been a child during the Voyager encounters, but the discovery of frequent liquid water on mars is something I compare to volcanism on Io or gryovulcanism on Triton. Just great. The legacy of MGS continues. May she rest (or circle) in peace.

Analyst
volcanopele
QUOTE (Analyst @ Dec 6 2006, 12:09 PM) *
frequent liquid water on mars is something I compare to volcanism on Io or gryovulcanism on Triton. Just great. The legacy of MGS continues. May she rest (or circle) in peace.

I wouldn't go THAT far. It is interesting, but the news that Mars gets hit by impact craters, and that gullies are present-day phenomena (given the crater counts on previously observed gullies) isn't that shocking. Interesting, but not shocking. I would put it on the level of the discovery of lakes on Titan, a discovery which just confirmed that we were at least on the right track with Titan.
centsworth_II
QUOTE (Analyst @ Dec 6 2006, 02:09 PM) *
... the discovery of frequent liquid water on mars...

You mean recent, not frequent, right?
um3k
I recorded the NASA TV internet stream of the entire conference. I'll upload it somewhere once I convert it to an appropriate format.
SteveM
QUOTE (tuvas @ Dec 6 2006, 01:23 PM) *
I'd be willing to bet that it's far more likely to have CRISM follow up then HiRISE, although HiRISE will almost certainly photograph these areas quite soon (I have no idea when, so...)
I'd be willing to bet that when CRISM focuses on these gullies they'll find salts of some kind. I'd even put a smaller wager on sulphate salts. As Steve Squyres mentioned in response to a question at Open University, the "water" on mars is acidic and inhospitable to life. That suggests that this AP article may be premature.
QUOTE (Stu @ Dec 6 2006, 12:16 PM) *
Martian find raises chances of life
ALICIA CHANG
ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 6, 2006
...
"This underscores the importance of searching for life on Mars, either present or past," said Bruce Jakosky, an astrobiologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who had no role in the study. "It's one more reason to think that life could be there.''
...


Steve
volcanopele
QUOTE (Steve @ Dec 6 2006, 12:21 PM) *
I'd be willing to bet that when CRISM focuses on these gullies they'll find salts of some kind. I'd even put a smaller wager on sulphate salts. As Steve Squyres mentioned in response to a question at Open University, the "water" on mars is acidic and inhospitable to life. That suggests that this AP article may be premature.
Steve

I agree. I would not be surprised if the bright deposits are some kind of sulphate salt.
AlexBlackwell
NASA Images Suggest Water Still Flows in Brief Spurts on Mars
NASA/JPL
December 6, 2006

Note: I'm going to change the name of this thread to the title above (or something close to it, depending on the space in the topic line).
AlexBlackwell
QUOTE (volcanopele @ Dec 6 2006, 09:29 AM) *
I agree. I would not be surprised if the bright deposits are some kind of sulphate salt.

Aside from HiRISE and CRISM, Malin mentioned SHARAD. I'm interested to see if the putative aquifers are detectable by GPR.
vmcgregor
Additional multimedia products (video, podcast, slideshow) have been added to the JPL homepage at www.jpl.nasa.gov

-Veronica McGregor
JPL Media Relations
tglotch
QUOTE (Steve @ Dec 6 2006, 07:21 PM) *
I'd be willing to bet that when CRISM focuses on these gullies they'll find salts of some kind. I'd even put a smaller wager on sulphate salts. As Steve Squyres mentioned in response to a question at Open University, the "water" on mars is acidic and inhospitable to life. That suggests that this AP article may be premature.
Steve


Well, we have evidence from two landing sites for acidic water in the form of sulfates. But don't forget that OMEGA has found plenty of evidence for gypsum and kieserite all over Mars, which are neutral salts and don't necessarily imply an acidic envrionment.
AlexBlackwell
QUOTE (volcanopele @ Dec 6 2006, 09:15 AM) *
I wouldn't go THAT far. It is interesting, but the news that Mars gets hit by impact craters, and that gullies are present-day phenomena (given the crater counts on previously observed gullies) isn't that shocking. Interesting, but not shocking. I would put it on the level of the discovery of lakes on Titan, a discovery which just confirmed that we were at least on the right track with Titan.

Oh Jason, your outer planets biases are showing tongue.gif

I think any scientist would agree that liquid water flowing at the surface or near-surface of present-day Mars is more than merely "interesting."
ElkGroveDan
QUOTE (vmcgregor @ Dec 6 2006, 11:53 AM) *
Additional multimedia products (video, podcast, slideshow) have been added to the JPL homepage at www.jpl.nasa.gov

-Veronica McGregor
JPL Media Relations

Welcome to UMSF Veronica
(from one silently suffering media relations person to another)
John M. Dollan
Considering the rate that the Earth intercepts meteors, and adding to that Mars' thinner atmopshere, would it not stand to reason that impacts would reach the surface much, much more often?

And if that is true, what does it say about those regions that are relatively crater-free? Could there be some active geology involved, or are Martian aeolian forces enough to erase some of these smaller craters?

...John, curious as always...
Paolo
Are artillery projectile-probes like these http://web.mit.edu/iang/www/pubs/artillery_05.pdf the only method suggested so far to explore the gullies?
climber
QUOTE (ElkGroveDan @ Dec 6 2006, 07:12 PM) *
We now have a new unit of measure; Swimming Pools.

I was sure YOU'll pick this one up biggrin.gif
BTW, they had another one but can't remeber what it was; Swimming Pools is good enough anyway wink.gif
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