Curiosity rover found an unexpected seasonal shift to the oxygen on Mars. It has long been delivering some appropriately curious results. After discovering methane on the planet, readings from its environment in Gale crater discovered regular changes to the methane unexplainable by the environmental factors that experts are already aware of.
Presently different oxygen has joined methane in the Martian mysteries list. The authors write in the paper published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research explained that Oxygen has ‘significant seasonal and interannual variability, suggesting an unknown atmospheric or surface process at work,’
Like our planet earth, Mars is tilted on its axis of rotation which means its northern and southern hemispheres experience seasons like Earth does, summer when the hemisphere points toward the Sun and winter when it steers away from the Sun.
Experts have been utilizing Curiosity’s SAM instrument to measure the abundance of various molecules in the planet’s atmosphere and how they vary with its seasons. Now, they delivered the result of five Earth years’ (three Mars years’) worth of data taking.
The authors wrote: The SAM measurements of [oxygen] in Gale crater do not show the annual stability or seasonal patterns that would be predicted based on the known sources and sinks in the atmosphere,”
There was more oxygen than predicted during the Martian northern hemisphere’s late spring to summer, which Curiosity’s late fall to winter, and less oxygen than anticipated during the northern hemisphere’s winter, which is Curiosity’s summer.
According to a NASA release, Experts attempted to devise an explanation for this; could be the device was broken or maybe the oxygen was from carbon dioxide or water breaking up in the atmosphere which could mean there’s much more water than the planet already has in its atmosphere, or carbon dioxide breaks up too slowly to produce the oxygen signatures.