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Fw: Researchers: Mars once hummed with magnetism, like Earth

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  • Jeroen Kumeling
    Subject: NUFOIA: Researchers: Mars once hummed with magnetism, like Earth Date: dinsdag, 4. mei 1999 8:57 April 29, 1999 Web posted at: 3:55 p.m. EDT (1955
    Message 1 of 1 , May 4, 1999
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      Subject: NUFOIA: Researchers: Mars once hummed with magnetism, like Earth
      Date: dinsdag, 4. mei 1999 8:57



      April 29, 1999
      Web posted at: 3:55 p.m. EDT (1955 GMT)


      (CNN) -- New information from the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft suggests
      the barren planet once had geology like that of Earth, with a torrid
      interior
      spurting molten rock and massive plates drifting on the surface.

      Plate tectonics -- which is the way big sections of a planet's surface
      slide
      around over billions of years -- was thought to be a process that only
      happened on Earth and that required water, a basic precondition for life.
      If
      it happened on Mars too, that would add new ammunition for those who
      believe
      life existed there at one time.

      This may mean the very young Mars resembled the very young Earth, but that
      Mars ran out of its internal energy sources and became a geologically dead
      planet early in its history, said Norman F. Ness of the University of
      Delaware and co-author of the study.

      "The data suggests that Mars was once magnetic and was far more similar to
      Earth's global magnetic field than had previously assumed," Ness said.

      Planetary fraternal twins
      Evidence of this magnetic field is frozen in rocks that were molten when
      the
      magnetic field existed. When the rocks hardened they retained the original
      magnetism, and that now has been detected and mapped by the spacecraft.

      "At the present time there is no evidence of a global magnetic field on
      Mars," Ness said. "That means the dynamo died and what is left is the
      memory
      of that dynamo, stored in the crustal rocks like a magnetic tape
      recording."


      A composite image of Mars made up of of 9 color strips taken by Mars Global

      Surveyor on 9 successive orbits from pole-to-pole over the planet in March
      1999

      "If it were possible to say that early Mars did in fact have plate
      tectonics,
      that would be another argument that would lead you toward expectation of
      life
      on Mars, because it would be more Earth-like," said John Connerney, one of
      the authors of a report on the subject in this week's edition of the
      journal
      Science.

      Mars and Earth are like fraternal twins created 4.5 billion years ago,
      Connerney said in a telephone interview. Bigger twin Earth is still driven
      by
      its fiery heart to push its continents apart and smash them together, while

      Mars is cold with only magnetic indications that this once took place.

      Steve Maran, assistant director of space sciences at NASA's Goddard Space
      Flight Center, where Connerney is based, called the report "mind-blowing."

      "(Connerney's report means) The early Mars was like an early Earth and
      something made that all go away," Maran said by telephone. "It's gone from
      a
      live planet to a dead planet and it increases our interest in getting
      sample
      rocks back and looking for the possibility of early microbial life on
      Mars."

      Conflicting view
      Not all are convinced. In an accompanying article, paleomagnetist Ronald
      Merill of the University of Washington, Seattle, was quoted as saying, "If
      plate tectonics was operating on Mars, it worked differently or it was
      recorded differently by the rocks."

      Connerney's research was based on data gathered by the Mars Global
      Surveyor,
      an unmanned craft launched by the National Aeronautics and Space
      Administration to repeatedly orbit the planet at low altitude, low enough
      to
      see patches of magnetized rock on the surface.

      At first, the magnetized patches seemed random, but as the spacecraft
      gathered more information, a pattern of "zebra stripes" of positive and
      negative charges emerged -- very similar to what scientists found on the
      sea
      floor of Earth.

      On Mars, the stripes seem to be more strongly magnetized and much larger,
      but
      Connerney theorized they were formed by plate tectonics, the same process
      that on Earth accounts for earthquakes, volcanoes and some mountain ranges.


      Earth's oceans are essential to the process, lubricating the plates and
      helping them slip more easily. But this does not necessarily mean there
      were
      ever oceans on Mars -- though Connerney believes some water was necessary,
      possibly enough to support some kind of life.

      'What happened to the water?'
      "It would be surprising if water weren't there, in apparent river beds and
      large canyons," Connerney said. "The real mystery today has been, what
      happened to the water?"

      Vicki L. Hansen, a Southern Methodist University geologist, said that the
      fate of Mars also awaits the Earth. She said that eventually Earth also
      will
      exhaust its internal energy and its molten core will cool. This will shut
      down the planet's magnetic field and allow radiation from the sun to strip
      away the Earth's atmosphere and water.

      "What Mars went through at a very young age is what will occur on the Earth

      eventually," she said.

      Ness said that Mars died much more quickly than Earth because the red
      planet
      is smaller and had much less internal heat generated by friction and the
      decay of radioactive minerals.

      The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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