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Spirit solves a cold case

Well, anyway evidence found five years ago is evaluated for new and very interesting information.

June 3, 2010 | Scientific American
Water Spirit: Rover Findings Hint of a Warmer, Wetter Era on Mars
Bountiful carbonate minerals in a rock outcrop on the Red Planet could have formed under watery greenhouse conditions billions of years ago

By John Matson

For NASA's Spirit rover, the days of roaming the Red Planet may now be in the past, but the observations the wheeled bot made in its travels are still paying scientific dividends. A new analysis of geologic data gathered by the rover nearly five years ago finds that a rock outcrop on Mars is rich in carbonates, which are minerals that form readily in watery, carbon-rich environments. According to the study, the finding lends more credence to the hypothesis that Mars may have once had a wetter, warmer climate thanks to a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere. What is more, the aqueous processes implicated in the carbonate formation point to a neutral environment more hospitable to life than the acidic waters thought to have existed elsewhere on Mars.

Multiple lines of evidence point to past flows of water across the Martian surface, but conditions on the planet now preclude the existence of liquid water. In the past Mars's surface could have been much warmer, particularly if a robust atmosphere had provided a significant greenhouse effect on the planet. The dense carbon dioxide atmosphere often invoked to explain the warm era should have left its mark on the planet's geology, as carbon and oxygen sequestered in carbonate minerals. But prior to the new study, carbonates had only been found in small amounts on Mars, creating an evidentiary problem for the carbon dioxide hypothesis.


See the link on the title for the entire article which has a lot of interesting links of its own, too.