NASA researchers reached a grim revelation after they found out that approximately 90% of the images delivered by one of the instruments located on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter were affected by a graphical glitch.
The glitch was discovered after researchers tried to locate more signs that that proved the existence of moisture-absorbing material on the Martian surface. They didn’t succeed and a shade of doubt is now cast on the precise water distribution around the planet.
The instrument in question, Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, is constantly scanning the surface in order to track down certain minerals which are associated with water deposits. The task is achieved by analyzing infrared and visible light that are linked to a variety of chemical structures and generating a pixelated map of area that spreads on approximately 100 to 200 meters (330 to 660 ft.)
The pixels that represent several minerals like serpentine, alunite, kieserite and perchlorate may have been created by a glitch which appears when instruments goes from a field of intense light to a shadowy area.
The flaw was discovered after a team of researchers tried a new filter algorithm in order to obtain better images. While image noise has been considerably removed, a large quantity of pixels has been affected and they appear to look like perchlorate.
At first they thought that the salts were spread naturally around vast areas but signs that hinted to something different appeared as well. When one of the scans suggested that perchlorate could be found on the edge of cliffs, a situation that is factually impossible, the new that something didn’t work quite well.
The problem has been fixed and most of the zones were perchlorate were present continue to appear in the new scans. The team is now hard at work as they are updating the maps with new information and eliminating the zones that aren’t suitable.