News of the WeekPlanetary Science

Phoenix Lander Revealing a Younger, Livelier Mars

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Science  10 Sep 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5997, pp. 1267-1269
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5997.1267

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Although the ice of a deeply frigid martian winter wrecked the Phoenix lander last year, data it returned in 2008 are yielding signs that Mars has been surprisingly lively these past few billion years, at least in a geochemical sort of way. Phoenix's measurements of the isotopic composition of atmospheric carbon dioxide are pointing to an atmosphere rejuvenated by volcanic outpourings, possibly up to the very recent geologic past. Moreover, despite what looks like eons of frigid dryness, the atmosphere may have been chemically interacting with liquid water recently. And where there's liquid water, of course, there could be life.