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Within this environment, scientists found that nitrogen and argon follow a predictable seasonal pattern, waxing and waning in concentration in Gale Crater throughout the year relative to how much CO2 is in the air. They expected oxygen to do the same. But it didn’t. Instead, the amount of the gas in the air rose throughout spring and summer by as much as 30%, and then dropped back to levels predicted by known chemistry in fall. This pattern repeated each spring, though the amount of oxygen added to the atmosphere varied, implying that something was producing it and then taking it away.
The instrument was fine. They considered the possibility that CO2 or water (H2O) molecules could have released oxygen when they broke apart in the atmosphere, leading to the short-lived rise. But it would take five times more water above Mars to produce the extra oxygen, and CO2 breaks up too slowly to generate it over such a short time. What about the oxygen decrease? Could solar radiation have broken up oxygen molecules into two atoms that blew away into space? No, scientists concluded, since it would take at least 10 years for the oxygen to disappear through this process.
“We’re struggling to explain this,” said Melissa Trainer, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland who led this research. “The fact that the oxygen behavior isn’t perfectly repeatable every season makes us think that it’s not an issue that has to do with atmospheric dynamics. It has to be some chemical source and sink that we can’t yet account for.”
“We have not been able to come up with one process yet that produces the amount of oxygen we need, but we think it has to be something in the surface soil that changes seasonally because there aren’t enough available oxygen atoms in the atmosphere to create the behavior we see,” said Timothy McConnochie, assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland in College Park and another co-author of the paper.
originally posted by: moebius
a reply to: gortex
Or perhaps it is simply some chemical source and sink that they can’t yet account for.
[These] observations [...] have enhanced our understanding of Mars as a complex planetary system. Geophysical and geochemical results have painted a picture of a formerly habitable planet billions of years in Mars’ past, and measurements of current processes provide indications that Mars may still potentially harbor habitable environments.
originally posted by: machineintelligence
I would have some probes in the darkest spots on the planet looking for a subterranean life cycle process going on.
Borax is a naturally occurring substance also known as sodium borate.
It contains oxygen, water, sodium, and boran, and is usually found embedded deep in the earth...)