Wednesday April 24, 2019

NASA’s Curiosity rover finds a Wide Variety of Minerals in Martian Rocks

Orbital infrared spectroscopy shows that mountain's lowermost layers have variations in minerals

0
//
The Hubble Space Telescope took this close-up of Mars when it was just 88 million kilometers away. This image was assembled from a series of exposures taken over 36 hours. A new study posits that heavy rain may have once fallen on the Red Planet. (NASA). VOA
  • Curiosity landed near Mount Sharp in Gale Crater in August 2012 and it reached the base of the mountain in 2014
  • Orbital infrared spectroscopy had shown that the mountain’s lowermost layers have variations in minerals
  • At the base are minerals from a primitive magma source; they are rich in iron and magnesium, similar to basalts in Hawaii, the data showed

Washington, June 12, 2017: Examining initial samples of rocks collected by National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) Mars Curiosity rover, scientists have found a wide diversity of minerals in the lowermost layers of Mount Sharp mountain, suggesting that conditions changed in the water environments on the Red Planet over time.

Curiosity landed near Mount Sharp in Gale Crater in August 2012. It reached the base of the mountain in 2014. Layers of rocks at the base of Mount Sharp accumulated as sediment within ancient lakes around 3.5 billion years ago.

ALSO READ: NASA Mars rover to Study an ancient fluid-carved valley incised on the inner slope of a vast crater’s rim

Orbital infrared spectroscopy had shown that the mountain’s lowermost layers have variations in minerals.

“We went to Gale Crater to investigate these lower layers of Mount Sharp that have these minerals that precipitated from water and suggest different environments,” said Elizabeth Rampe of Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Houston who is the first author of the study.

“These layers were deposited about 3.5 billion years ago, coinciding with a time on Earth when life was beginning to take hold. We think early Mars may have been similar to early Earth, and so these environments might have been habitable,” Rampe added.

The minerals found in the four samples drilled near the base of Mount Sharp suggest several different environments were present in ancient Gale Crater, according to the study published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

At the base are minerals from a primitive magma source; they are rich in iron and magnesium, similar to basalts in Hawaii, the data showed.

Moving higher in the section, scientists saw more silica-rich minerals.

In the “Telegraph Peak” sample, scientists found minerals similar to quartz. In the “Buckskin” sample, scientists found tridymite.

Tridymite is found on Earth in rocks that formed from partial melting of the Earth’s crust or in the continental crust — a strange finding because Mars never had plate tectonics.

In the “Confidence Hills” and “Mojave 2” samples, scientists found clay minerals, which generally form in the presence of liquid water with a near-neutral pH, and therefore could be good indicators of past environments that were conducive to life. (IANS)

Next Story

Research Reveals, Red Planet’s Rivers Were Wider Than Those On Earth Today

If the dates for these massive rivers are correct, the findings could suggest that Mars' late-stage atmosphere disappeared faster than previously calculated, or that there were other drivers of precipitation under low-atmosphere conditions, the researchers noted.

0
solar system
In the river basins, for which there is most data, Mars' rivers were about two times wider than those on Earth. Pixabay

Mars’ rivers flowed intensely and may have persisted as recently as one billion years ago, reveals a survey that found that the red planet’s rivers were wider than those on Earth today.

The study by scientists at the University of Chicago catalogued these rivers and found that significant river runoff persisted on Mars later into its history than previously thought.

According to the study, published in the Science Advances journal, the runoff was intense and occurred at hundreds of locations on the red planet.

Rivers
The survey used image data of well-preserved paleo-river channels. Pixabay

These findings suggest that climate-driven precipitation may have taken place on Mars even during the time that researchers think the planet was losing its atmosphere and was drying out.

This complicates the picture for scientists trying to model the ancient Martian climate, said lead author Edwin Kite, Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago.

“It’s already hard to explain rivers or lakes based on the information we have. This makes a difficult problem even more difficult,” he said.

But, Kite said, the constraints could be useful in winnowing the many theories that researchers have proposed to explain the climate.

The survey used image data of well-preserved paleo-river channels, alluvial fans and deltas across Mars, and calculated the intensity of river runoff using multiple methods, including an analysis of the size of the river channels.

Atmosphere
These findings suggest that climate-driven precipitation may have taken place on Mars even during the time that researchers think the planet was losing its atmosphere and was drying out. VOA

In the river basins, for which there is most data, Mars’ rivers were about two times wider than those on Earth.

Between 1 and 3.6 billion years ago, and likely after 1 billion years ago, there was intense runoff in these channels, amounting to 3 to 20 kg per square metre each day.

Also Read: US Approves Secret Nuclear Power Technology for Saudi Arabia

The runoff appeared to have been distributed globally, and was not a short-lived or localised phenomenon, the researchers said.

If the dates for these massive rivers are correct, the findings could suggest that Mars’ late-stage atmosphere disappeared faster than previously calculated, or that there were other drivers of precipitation under low-atmosphere conditions, the researchers noted. (IANS)