Epsom-like salts believed to be common on Mars may be a major source of water there, say geologists at Indiana University Bloomington and Los Alamos National Laboratory. In their report in this weeks Nature, the scientists also speculate that the salts will provide a chemical record of water on the Red Planet.
"The Mars Odyssey orbiter recently showed that there may be as much as 10 percent water hidden in the Martian near-surface," said David Bish, Haydn Murray Chair of Applied Clay Mineralogy at IU and a co-author of the report. "We were able to show that under Mars-like conditions, magnesium sulfate salts can contain a great deal of water. Our findings also suggest that the kinds of sulfates we find on Mars could give us a lot of insight into the history of water and mineral formation there."
The scientists learned that magnesium sulfate salts are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature, pressure and humidity. For that reason, the scientists argue that information contained in the salts could be easily lost if samples were brought back to Earth for study. Instead, they say, future missions to Mars should measure the properties of the salts on site.
David Bricker | EurekAlert!
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