Just how fast are some rocks on Mars eroding? A few months ago I asked a Martian rock that question see: My Interview with a Martian: A Story of Origins and I was not given a very satisfying answer.
Well, that rock can be excused for being a bit confused about time given how boring it may be sitting on the surface so long with so little to do. But now we have sent a little rover called Curiosity to Mars to do some further investigations for us. That rover has some sophisticated analytical equipment on board. One of them can take drilled rock dust, heat it up until it melts and the smell the molecules that emanate from the melting crystals. What we learned this week is that some of the molecules that this instrument can measure are the kind that can be used to calculate radiometric ages.
On sol May 18,Curiosity drilled this hole at a second site Cosmogenic helium dating creation Cumberland. That measurement yielded an age of 4. This is on par with the oldest rocks on Earth and was the age predicted for this region of Mars based on relative methods of dating such as crater density counts.
Curiosity took this photo from Yellowknife Bay, looking west-northwest up a series of scarps created by wind erosion. The Sheepbed mudstone was drilled and chemically Cosmogenic helium dating creation. There results of that analysis and others provide strong evidence that this area was a lake. There are some layers that are different in composition making them harder and so more resistant to erosion.
This is the reason why there are various ledges formed here as wind eroded the rocks. The whole area you see in the pictures above and below is thought to have been buried under many layers or rock which have been eroded over time to reveal the layers that we are seeing today. Emily Lakdawalla reviews the significance of the dates.
If you want to know everything that is happening in planetary science I highly recommend following her on Twitter elakdawalla. Mars lacks a significant magnetic field, so anything on its surface is exposed to bombardment by galactic cosmic rays. Galactic cosmic rays can produce specific isotopes of noble gases: These gases would not have been present in the rocks when they first formed, so if you know the rate at which the isotopes are produced on Mars, and if you measure their abundance in current rocks, you can estimate how long the rock has been exposed at, or near, the surface.
Schematic illustration of the exhumation of boulders from a heterogeneous Cosmogenic helium dating creation by erosion of the matrix. Think of this as boulders in a glacial deposit. As the material around the boulders erodes it leaves the boulder at the surface.
By measuring the ratio of nuclides in the surface of each of these rocks in the last frame it is possible to tell which boulder was uncovered Cosmogenic helium dating creation because it will be the one that has been exposed to cosmic rays the longest and so will be the most altered. From the differences in the dates of the rocks a rate of erosion of the matrix material can be estimated. Similarly layers of rock on Mars can be tested and rocks in one area to find out if they have been exposed longer than in other areas.
After Zreda et al. A form of this analysis can be done for rocks on Earth as well. Cosmogenic helium dating creation is called cosmogenic nuclide dating and it allows for rough estimates of the rates of erosion, or exposure times, in different locations eg. So what can we about erosion on the surface of Mars from this form of analysis? Lakdawalla goes on to explain:. In other words, the Sheepbed rocks are being exposed by a process of scarp retreat.
I think the operators of the Curiosity rover have come up with a pretty nifty way of estimating erosion. Regardless, this suggests that erosion really is happening on Mars. Our martian friend hanging out on the surface slowly eroding in the wind. The Curiosity rover snapped this image while driving by. Back to our martian friend laying there on the surface see picture to the right. In my interview My Interview with a Martian: A Story of Origins I asked this rock what would happen to him in the future?
This was his reply:. On the other hand, it is possible that another meteorite could hit near here
Cosmogenic helium dating creation cover me with a blanket of rocks in which case those new friends would shield me from erosion and I might live for millions of years to come.
The prediction of 10, years or a bit longer seems about right given these new estimates of the rate of erosion. I had thought maybe he could last another million years but apparently erosion is occurring at a faster pace than I would have guessed. Still, this little rock is but a small piece of the geological terrain in the area that includes many small meteor craters and many hundreds of meters of rock that have been eroded in the area before our little friend even came to find his way to his present location.
The Curiosity rover science team has now collected enough evidence to convince them the rover is now driving around on rock that was deposited originally as sediments in a large lake. But that lake Cosmogenic helium dating creation been dry for hundreds of millions of years if not billions of years.
Since then massive amounts of rock have eroded and small new craters have been created and eroded and then covered with even more debris
Cosmogenic helium dating creation other cratering events. All the while wind has been slowing eating away at the rock surfaces and moving material from one place to another.
If we took a snapshot today and came back one million years from now it might look very similar but in many subtle ways the landscape is constantly changing. This picture was taken two days ago by the Curiosity rover. In the distance is the hopeful destination.
This area is where scientists believe an ancient lake once was. There should be a lot to look at and test when they get there. Thanks for the post — I just got done showing my daughter your background pic.
Yes, I find the pictures from Mars really amazing. The surface is far more complex that I had imagined it to be. The next few months should bring the rover down into the valley at the foot of the large mountain.
Check out this picture from today: God has provided a Universe of incredible diversity and one that we will never run out of things to wonder at. You are Cosmogenic helium dating creation using your WordPress.
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Follow Blog via Email Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Follow NH on Facebook. to top Cosmogenic helium dating creation page. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. Cosmogenic Dating Methods Allow Estimates of Erosion Rates on Mars looking west-northwest up a series of scarps created by wind erosion.
produce specific isotopes of noble gases: argon, neon, and helium Measurements of cosmogenic helium in flood deposits, on river-scoured surfacesand lava flows show that it is that production rate to date other geologic.
of change in the Earth's surface by measuring their production due to cosmic ray- induced reactions KEYWORDS: Cosmogenic nuclide, dating, chronology, landscape change, Quaternary cosmogenic helium and some applications to.
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