Oct 03 2014

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Undergraduate develops new way to detect water on Mars

Pretty slick!

A Washington State University undergraduate has helped develop a new method for detecting water on Mars. Kellie Wall, 21, of Port Orchard, Wash., looked for evidence that water influenced crystal formation in basalt, the dark volcanic rock that covers most of eastern Washington and Oregon. She then compared this with volcanic rock observations made by the rover Curiosity on Mars’ Gale Crater.

The researchers established a method to quantify the texture of volcanic rock using an index called “groundmass crystallinity.” Wall compares it to the texture of a chocolate chip cookie, which can vary according to how it is cooked and cooled.
“We were interested in the cookie dough part of the cookie,” she said.
Liquid volcanic rock cools rapidly as it hits water, flash-freezing to form mostly glass. Without water, it takes longer to cool and forms crystals within the groundmass, the cookie dough part.
Using an x-ray diffraction machine on the WSU campus, home to one of the most sophisticated basalt labs in the world, Wall analyzed rock samples from the Northwest, New Zealand and Italy’s Mount Etna and compared them to rocks analyzed by Curiosity’s x-ray diffractometer.

Kellie Wall

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2014/10/03/undergraduate-develops-new-way-to-detect-water-on-mars/

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