WARM WINTER GROUND TEMPERATURES AT MSL AND POSSIBLE LIFE SEEN IN CONJUNCTION WITH THEM.

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Does the angle of the slope under MSL explain 3 weeks of temperatures at 0 C or above at the start of winter? This page updated on 3/28/2016.

MYSTERY: Just after the second winter solstice (Ls 90) at MSL on Mars ground temperatures recorded climbed to above freezing. No such temperatures were recorded anywhere near that time in MSL's Year 1. What was even weirder was that while ground temperature highs were record highs for that time of year, nighttime lows were record lows. We looked at whether the MSL was on a slope that might impact angle of incidence of solar rays and therefore temperature, much as was apparent with respect to times that Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL) occurred in association with supposed running water on Mars. However, on the evening of 9 February 2016 we found an MSL position image at http://mars.nasa.gov/msl/mission/whereistherovernow/ which showed elevations and positions for many sols between Sol 1173 (Ls 72 which is late autumn at MSL) and Sol 1248 (Ls 106). We captured it by print screen and adapted it by addition of maximum and minimum ground temperatures. See Figure 1 below. Note that all temperatures above freezing occurred when MSL moved little for about 3 weeks in an area where there was a two meter change in elevation over a 10 meter distance. This is a 20% grade (an 11.3° slope).

The Temperatures Involved: Here is data that we gathered and placed in our article: As of February 12, 2016 it appears that the high air or ground temperature is above 0° C at Gale Crater on at least 406 days of the 669 sols in a Martian year. This number is based on at least one above freezing sol in either MSL Year 1 or 2 at the same Ls.  Surprisingly the number increased in early winter of MSL Year 2 on 16 sols between Ls 95 and 104 with above freezing ground temperatures  of +1, +1, +2, +1, +1, +1, +1, +1, +1, +2, +2, +2, +3, +1, +2 and +1 °C found where in Year 1 the ground temperatures on those days were -7, -6, -3, -6, -5, -9, -11, -8, -8, -13, -7, -7, -8, -8, -10 and -9° C. There were also five sols (1222, 1223, 1230, 1237 and 1244) at Ls 94, 98, 101 and 104 where the ground temperature in Year 2 was 0° C while in Year 1 it was only -10, -7 -5, -9 and -10° C. A quick summary for this 24-sol period each year is given on Table 1. A more extensive summary can be found below on Tables 2 and 3.

TABLE 1

USUALLY WARM GROUND TEMPERATURES EARLY IN THE WINTER OF MSL YEAR 2

MSL YEAR

LS RANGE

SOL RANGE (24 sols)

AVERAGE DAY AIR TEMP HI ° C

AVERAGE NIGHT AIR TEMP LO    ° C

AVERAGE DROP IN AIR TEMP DAY TO NIGHT

AVERAGE DAY GROUND TEMP HI ° C

AVERAGE NIGHT GROUND TEMP LO ° C

AVERAGE DROP IN GROUND TEMP DAY TO NIGHT

1

93 TO 104

552 TO 575

-26.66667

-84.9583

-58.2916

-8.45833

-90.79167

-82.3233

2

93 TO 104

1,221 TO 1,244

-26.79167

-87.45833

-60.6666

+0.79167

-96.54167

-97.3333

Figure 1 - Elevations and ground temperatures encountered while MSL was at positions noted by JPL. Possible life was seen on Sol 1185, along with a warmer than expected high ground temperature. The position noted for MSL for Sol 1248 is a return to within 20 meters of where the potential life was seen before. Then it moved within about 10 meters of the site. See Figure 3 to see the suspected life. Figure 2 below - some of the unusually warm ground temperatures seen early in MSL Year 2 Winter.

WHY THE EARLY WINTER GROUND TEMPERATURES ARE SO IMPORTANT. On Sol 1185, and to a lesser degree on Sol 1189 and later (there were a few green spherical objects seen on Sol 1242 - where were green spherical objects seen. See Figure 3). On Sol 1185 they were near what looked like either a geode split open, or possibly a cocoon of some sort. The green color was suggestive of something that might be alive and photosynthetic. The shape would allow Martian winds to move these objects so that they could reach nutrients. Moreover, while some cells (if they are there) would benefit from sunlight while facing the sun, those on the bottom would not - unless the sphere shape evolved to allow the bottom cells to reach the top. Is there something analogous in Earth-based botany? Yes. When the cross section of a leaf is examined under a microscope, chloroplasts in the Palisade layer move from top to bottom and back to the top again as the cytoplasm in the cells circulates. This ensures that all chloroplasts get a chance to move up to just under the epidermis so they can absorb more ultraviolet light from the sun and increase the rate at which photosynthesis occurs, Of course, in photosynthesis carbon dioxide and water combine to form sugar (glucose) and oxygen. The Martian atmosphere is supposed to be 95% carbon dioxide, running water is believed to be found in association with RSL in Gale crater, and JPL has announced evidence for brine found by MSL. We couldn't find a GIF image of the suspected RSL at Gale Crater, but RSL look like the following image take at Palikir Crater on Mars:

ANIMATED GIF 1 BELOW: A time-lapse animation of Palikir Crater shows how the streaks extend and darken during warmer months on Mars, then gradually fade as temperatures cool. Source: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory/University of Arizona
 

       On a 1 to 5 scale with 1 being low µv and 5 being extremely high µv, for the first 1,245 sols where µv was recorded the average µv rating was about 2.5 - between moderate and high - which is terrific for allowing photosynthesis to occur. That even in the winter above freezing ground temperatures can be found at MSL, and that such high ground temperatures have been found at MSL for the majority of days (406 out of 669 sols in a Martian year - over 60%) means that conditions are present for life on Mars now. Of great interest is that two months after leaving the area greatest concern at Sol 1185, Curiosity returned to within 10 meters of it for what is obviously another look on Sols 1248 and 1249 (see Figure 1 above). Note: the photo for Sol 1185 was originally sent to me by David Kiepke with a request for me to look at the "anomalies." The decision to label the finding as potential life was mine (Barry S. Roffman). My son, David Roffman, didn't disagree, but obviously we both want to see an unbiased chemical analysis.

       With respect to the cocoon-like object seen on Figure 3, the tremendous ground temperature changes (around 100 degrees Celsius) claimed on Figure 1 might play a role in cracking it open to release life when warmed, but the night ground temperatures are likely due to instrument malfunction. Again, the ground temperature sensor is only accurate to 10 degrees Celsius.

Figure 3 - The green spherical and cocoon-like objects seen on sols 1185 and 1189. The green spheres might be photosynthetic life. As mentioned with Figure 1 above, MSL returned to the area again on Sol 1248, possibly for a further look or tests to see if this is life.

 

Figure 4 - General overview of Gale Crater, Mars. The yellow line on the left image shows the direction of Curiosity from landing until Sol 1248 on 9 February 2016.

 

Figure 5 - Detailed view of land traversed by MSL from landing until early February, 2016.

 

TABLE 2: MSL Year 2 above freezing winter ground temperatures were found between Sol 1224 (LS 95) and Sol 1243 (LS 104). The expanding Year 2 weather report is found at this liknk (http://davidaroffman.com/photo2_32.html).

Table 2 column subjects and color codings are as follows:

On Table 1 column subjects and color codings are as follows:

Column A (Sol). The Martian day is about 39 minutes longer than the terrestrial day.

Column B is solar longitude (Ls). MSL is in the Southern Hemisphere on Mars. The landing was at Ls 150 in winter. Ls 180 begins the spring there.  Ls 270 starts summer, Ls 0 starts the fall. Ls 90 starts the winter.

Column C shows the pressure reported by the REMS Team.

Column D shows the date on Earth.

Column E shows the maximum air temperature. With respect to the freezing point, from 0° C at 1 atm pressure it will increase up to 0.01° C at 0.006 atm (which is about the average pressure on Mars as given by NASA). This is the triple point of water. At pressures below this, water will never be liquid. It will change directly between solid and gas phase (sublimation). The temperature for this phase change, the sublimation point, will decrease as the pressure is further decreased

Column F shows minimum air temperature.

Column G shows the air temperature range for each sol. On Earth temperatures can vary by 40 °C in deserts. In column G where the range is 59 °C or less yellow background coloring points that out. The National Park Service claims the world record in a diurnal temperature variation is 102 °F (57 °C) (from 46 °F (8 °C) to −56 °F (−49 °C)) in Browning, Montana (elevation 4,377 feet/1,334 meters) on January 23 to 24, 1916. There were 2 days in Montana where the temperature changed by 57 °C.

Column H shows temperature range divided by 40. This allows us to compare terrestrial deserts with Gale Crater, Mars. How much cooling occurs at night is related to the density of the atmosphere. Here we see the ratio of cooling on a Mars sol to the typical 40 °C cooling figure for Earth's deserts shown with a green background when that ratio is under 1.5. For MSY Year 1 when we altered the devisor from 40 °C  to 57 °C then 88 of the ratios were altered to 1 or less than 1, meaning that Martian air pressure is indeed likely much higher than NASA claims.

Column I shows maximum ground temperature. As with terrestrial deserts, the ground on Mars heats more during the day than the air does, and it cools more at night than the air does. In Column K when the maximum ground temperature is given by REMS is above 0°C it is shown with a red background.

Column J shows the minimum ground temperature. When it is -90 °C or colder the background is in purple. The ground temperatures are not very precise. The requirement was to measure ground brightness temperature over the range from 150 to 300 K with a resolution of 2 K and an accuracy of 10 K

Column K. Drop in ground temperature from day to night.

Column L shows the increase in temperature from the mast 1.5 meters above the ground down to the ground during the daylight hours. In column N anytime there is an increase in temperature of 11 °C or more this in indicated with a dark blue background.

 

Column M shows the decrease in temperature from the ground to the air at nights. If the data were valid we would expect similar heating or cooling to occur over the set distance from ground to boom. A quick survey of the data immediately shows that this was not found. In column L we see a variation in heating between 0 °C and at least 15 °C with a 54 °C anomaly on Sol 1,070. For nighttime cooling any variation from 11°C to 19°C is shown with a medium blue background. More than that is shown with a dark blue background.

Column N shows the pressure for the same Ls in MSL Year 1.

Column O shows the absolute value of the change in pressure in Pascals from the same Ls in the previous year (Column [M] - [C]).

Column P shows the original pressure for the same Ls in MSL Year 1 before JPL revised their data.

Column Q shows the Ls during Year 1.

Column R shows the UV for the sol in Year 2.

Column S shows the UV for the sol in Year 1. All sols in MSL Year 1 and Year 2 have opacity listed as “sunny” which seems dubious.

Column T shows comments, if any.

 

 
Correction Note: On 3/20/2016. Due to an error in row, data was one row off before corrections to columns M,N, O and S before this date. Data on the table below has been corrected. These corrections must still be made to the same columsn on the earlier data sets from Sol 880 to Sol 121.

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

 K

L M N O P Q R S T

SOL

~LS

PRESSURE

Pa   

EARTH

DATE

MAX

AIR

TEMP

°C   

MIN

AIR

TEMP

°C

AIR

TEMP

RANGE

°C

AIR

TEMP

RANGE

°C/40

MAX

GROUND

TEMP °C

MIN

GROUND

TEMP °C

∆ GROUND

TEMP

DAY

TO

NIGHT

DAYTIME

CHANGE

IN TEMP 

°C AIR

TO GROUND

NIGHTIME

CHANGE

IN TEMP

°C AIR TO

GROUND

PRESSURE

AT SAME

LS IN MSL

YEAR 1

∆ PRESSURE

YEAR 1 TO

YEAR 2 SAME

LS 

~LS

year 1

PRESSURE    

YEAR 1 

BEFORE

REVISION 

UV

YR

2  

UV

YR

1

 COMMENTS
           

YELLOW IF

<60 °C

GREEN IF

<1.5

RED IF

> 0 °C

PURPLE =

 >=90°C

OR COLDER

Yellow numbers

= -80 to -89 °C,

red background =

-90°C or colder 

drop

BLUE =

>10°C

PURPLE

= >10°C

  YELLOW = 
> 7 Pa)
         

1213

90

       851

1/4/2016

-27

-84

-57

1.425

      -12 

   -87 

-75

       15    

      -3  

      857

       -6

90 

        N/A 

FIRST DAY OF WINTER

1214 90         850 1/5/2016  -24 -85 -61 1.525        -12     -86 -74        12     -1       856        -6
90         N/A  M  M   
1215 91        848 1/6/2016  -27 -85 -58 1.45        -3    -84 -81        24
     1       855        -7
91          N/A  H

Max ground temp seems

too warm for this Ls.

1216 91        847 1/7/2016  -28 -86 58 1.45        -6    -85 -79       22      1       853        -6
91          N/A  H  
1217 92        846 1/8/2016 -27 -88 -61 1.525       -3    -91          24       -3        852        -6
91         N/A  M 

H

Max ground temp seems

too warm fo this Ls.

 
1218 92        845 1/9/2016 -32 -96 -64 1.6        -6    -91 -85        26      5       851        -6 
92          N/A  M M   
1219 93        844 1/10/2016 -27 -87 -60 1.5        -4    -92 -88        23     -5       850      -6 92         N/A M M  
1220 93        842 1/11/2016 -28 -87 -59 1.475  -3    -94 -91        25        -7   
      848        -6 
93         N/A M H

Max ground temp seems

too warm fo this Ls.

1221 93        841 1/12/2016 -28 -87 -59 1.475  -1    -94 -93        27        -7         847     -6
93         N/A  M M

Max ground temp seems

too warm fo this Ls.

 
1222 94        840 1/13/2016 -28 -87 -59 1.475  0    -94 -94        28        -7         845    -5 94          N/A  M M

Max ground 0 Celsius

temp seems way

too warm fo this Ls.

See Figure 1.

 
1223 94        839 1/14/2016      -26 -88  -62 1.55   0    -98   -98       26  -10        843       -4 94         N/A   M  M  See above.
1224 95        837 1/15/2016  -29 -88  -59  1.475  1     -98  -99       30  -10        842    -5 95         N/A   M  M 

Above freezing

ground temp but 98

degrees Celsius

(176.4F) 

colder

at night. WHY?

1225 95        837 1/16/2016  -28  -87   -59 1.475  -1     -98 -97       27  -11       842    -5 95         N/A   M  M  
1226 96        835  1/17/2016   
-24 -87  -63 1.575 1     -97 -98           25   -10         840    -5 96          N/A   M   M   Ground high 1 above 0
 
1227 96        833    1/18/2016    
-26 -88  -62 1.55 2     -97 -99
 28   -9       839     -6 96           N/A  M M  Ground high 2 above 0
1228 97        832
1/19/2016 -28 -88  -67 1.565 1     -93 -94  29   -5       838      -6 96         N/A   M H  Ground high 1 above 0
1229 97        832 1/20/2016 -26 -88  -62 1.55 1     -98 -99 27   -10       836      -4 97         N/A  M M Ground high 1 above 0 
1230 98        830 1/21/2016  -26  -88   -62   1.55  0      -98  -98   26   -10        835      -5 97         N/A   M M   
1231 98        828 1/22/2016  -26  -88   -62  1.55  1    -98 -99   27   -10         834      -6 98        N/A  M M Ground high 1 above 0 
1232 99        827 1/23/2016  -28 -88  -60 1.5  1      -98  -99   29    -10        833      -6 98         N/A   M M  Ground high 1 above 0 
1233 99        826 1/24/2016  -27 -88 -61 1.525      -97 -98   28   -9        831      -5 99         N/A    M M Ground high 1 above 0 
1234 99        824 1/26/2016   -26 -88   -62  1.5  2      -94 -96   28    -6        830   -6
99         N/A     M H

Ground high still 2 above 0,

air lows seem stuck.at -88.

SEE FIGURE 2 BELOW.

 
1235 100        824 1/27/2016   -28  -88  -60  1.5   -1     -97  -96  27   -9        829     -5 100         N/A    M H SEE FIGURE 2 BELOW. 
1236 100         822 1/28/2016   -26  -87 -61  1.525    1     -97    -98    27    -10         827      -5 100        N/A   M  H Ground high 1 above 0
1237 101        820 1/29/2016   -29 -88 -59 1.475    0       -99   -99    29   -11        825     -5 101         N/A   M  H SEE FIGURE 2 BELOW. 
1238 101        819 1/30/2016   -26  -87 -61  1.525  2     -95 -97  28   -8        825     -6 101        N/A  M  M 

Ground high 2 above 0 

SEE FIGURE 2 BELOW.

1239 102        818 1/31/2016   -26  -89 -63 1.575  2     -95 -97   28   -6        823      -5 102         N/A   M  M 

Ground high 2 above 0 

SEE FIGURE 2 BELOW.

1240  102         816 2/1/2016   -24  -87 -63  1.575   3      -94 -97    27    -7         821     -5 102         N/A   M  M 

New high in ground temp for this month (Mars month 4). Previous high 6- in  MSL Year 1

SEE FIGURE 2 BELOW.

1241 103        816 2/2/2016   -28   -87  -59  1.475     1        -100 -101  29    -14        820       -4   102         N/A M  M 

New low in ground temp for this month (Mars month 4). Previous low -99 this year. -97 in   MSL Year 1

SEE FIGURE 2 BELOW.

1242 103        815 2/3/2016   -26    -87   -61    1.525  2    -98  -100  28     -11        819     -4 102        N/A M  M   Ground high 2 above 0 
1243 104        814 2/4/2016   -26   -86 -60  1.5  1    -99 -100 27   -13        817     -3 103         N/A M   H   Ground high 1 above 0
1244 104        812 2/5/2016   -26  -85  -59   1.475   0    -92 -92 26   -7        816     -4 104          N/A   M   M   
1245 105        811 2/6/2016   -26  -86  -60    1.5 -4   -90 -86 22  -4        815     -4 104         N/A   M   M   
1246 105        810 2/7/2016   -25 -85 -60     1.5  -3   -91 -88 22   -6        813     -3 105         N/A  M M   
1247 105        809 2/8/2016   -25 -85 -60     1.5  -4   -90 -86  21  -5        812      -3 105         N/A  M M   
1248 105        807 2/9/2016   -23 -86 -63 1.575   -4   -90 -86  19  -4         811     -4 106         N/A  M M   
1249 106        806 2/10/2016   -32 -85  -53  1.325  -9   -86 -77 23 -1         810      -4 107          N/A  M  M  Major drop in air temp high, but not in air temp low.

 

 Table 3 is an extract of our full air and ground high temperature comparison for MSL Years 1 and 2. The full table is found at http://marscorrect.com/photo2_16.html.

 

TABLE 3 - COMPARISON OF MAXIMUM AIR AND GROUND HIGH TEMPERATURES FOR MSL EARLY WINTER YEARS 1 AND 2.

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

 

J

 

K

YEAR 1 SOL

~LS

Max Air Temp. °C

Original Max Air     Temp. °C

Max Ground     Temp °C

YEAR 2 SOL

~LS

Max Air    Temp °C

Max Ground  Temp °C

Δ Air High

Δ Ground High

544

90 WINTER

-27

N/A

-16

1213

90  

-27

 -12    

0   4

545

90 WINTER

-29

N/A

-14

1214

90  

 -24  

-12 

5   2

546

91

-34

N/A

-13

1215

 91

-27 

-3

7 10

547

91

-29

N/A

-10

1216

91

-28

-6

1   4 

548

91

-28

N/A

-10

1217

92 

-27  

-3 

1    7

549

92

-23

N/A

-12

1218

92  

-32

-6  

-9   6

550

92

-27

N/A

-9

1219

93 

-27 

-4

0   5

551

93

-28

N/A

-11

1220

93 

-28  

-3  

0    8

552

93

-29

N/A

-11

1221

93  

-28   

-1 

1   10 

553

94

-26

N/A

-10

1222

94 

-28  

0 

 -2 10 

554

94

-22

N/A

-7

1223

94 

-26

0  

 -4   7

555

95

-31

N/A

-9

1224

95

-29

1

2 10  

556

95

-29

N/A

-7

1225

95 

-28 

-1   

1   6

557

96

-29

N/A

-6

1226

96 

-24

1

5   7 

558

96

-26

N/A

-6

1227

 96 

-26

 2

0  8

559

96

-27

N/A

-3

1228

 97 

-28  

 1

 -1 4

560

97

-23

N/A

-6

1229

 97  

-26  

 1

 -3   7  

561

97

-23

N/A

-5

1230

98 

-26  

0  

 -3    5 

562

98

-23

N/A

-11

1231

98 

-26  

 1 

 -3  12

563

98

-31

N/A

-9

1232

99

-28

 1  -3  10

564

99

-27

N/A

-11

1233

99 

-27

 1

  0  12 

565

99

-27

N/A

-8

1234

99 

-26  

 2

  1 10 

566

100

-27

N/A

-13

1235

100

-28

-1

 -1 12

567

100

-28

N/A

-13

1236

100 

-26 

1

  2 14

568

101

-28

N/A

-9

1237

101 

-29

   0   

 -1   9

569

101

-27

N/A

-7

1238

101  

 -26  

 2 

1   9 

570

102

-26

N/A

-7

1239

102  

-26 

 2  

0  9 

571

102

-26

N/A

-8

1240

102  

-24

3

  2  11

572

102

-27

N/A

-8

1241

103

-28

1

-1  9  

573

102

-27

N/A

-10

1242

103 

-26  

  2   

1  12

574

103

-23

N/A

-9

1243

104 

-26   

1  

 -3 10

575

104

-26

N/A

-10

1244

104

-26 

  0    

0  10 

576

104

-26

N/A

-8

1245

105

-26 

-4  

0  4 

577

105

-27

N/A

-11

1246

105  

-25

-3

2 8

578

105

-23

N/A

-9

1247

105  

-25  

-3  

-2 6

579

106

-22

N/A

-8

1248

106

-23

-4   

-1 4 

580

106

-24

N/A

-10

1249

106  

-32

-9

-8 1