Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday February 21: The Perfect Polygons site

We drove East of Al-Ain looking for a good salt flat.  This wasn’t easy even though we had several maps, a GPS unit and a sturdy SUV.  Recent construction and development made our maps inaccurate.  Miles of formidable looking camel fences separated the roads from the valley floors.  But, before noon we found the perfect site.

In the middle of a big valley there were salty pools of standing water, surrounded by polygons of sun-baked mud.  No camels had disturbed the soil crust.  In places the pools were green with cyanobacteria. 

Jon collected three samples of methane gas from the mud, and one sample of bacterial mat.  The methane will be analyzed back at the NASA Ames Research Center to find out whether or not these bacteria prefer to use carbon-12 over carbon-13.  There is methane on Mars, too, and nobody knows where it comes from.  Maybe bacteria like these are making it. 

1 comment:

  1. Have the scientists talked about what specific kinds of bacteria can be found there? I was wondering because on Hwy 50 east of Fallen, Nevada and on the eastern sierras in the Owens Valley they have salt pools that are full of red or pink colors from the halobacterium. Also swimming with the halobacterium sometimes you can find two species of halophilic green algae, Dunaliella salina and Dangeardinella saltitrix. I know the spores from these bacteria can sit in salt crust for thousands of years, spontaneously coming to life when conditions are right. That would be cool to connect salt flats of Saudi Arabia with salt flats so close to us....