Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Evidence Found for Granite on Mars

19.11.2013
Researchers now have stronger evidence of granite on Mars and a new theory for how the granite – an igneous rock common on Earth -- could have formed there, according to a new study. The findings suggest a much more geologically complex Mars than previously believed.

Large amounts of a mineral found in granite, known as feldspar, were found in an ancient Martian volcano. Further, minerals that are common in basalts that are rich in iron and magnesium, ubiquitous on Mars, are nearly completely absent at this location.


NASA/JPL/JHUAPL/MSSS.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is providing new spectral 'windows' into the diversity of Martian surface materials. Here in a volcanic caldera, bright magenta outcrops have a distinctive feldspar-rich composition.

The location of the feldspar also provides an explanation for how granite could have formed on Mars. Granite, or its eruptive equivalent, rhyolite, is often found on Earth in tectonically active regions such as subduction zones. This is unlikely on Mars, but the research team concluded that prolonged magmatic activity on Mars can also produce these compositions on large scales.

“We’re providing the most compelling evidence to date that Mars has granitic rocks,” said James Wray, an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the study’s lead author.

The research was published November 17 in the Advance Online Publication of the journal Nature Geoscience. The work was supported by the NASA Mars Data Analysis Program.

For years Mars was considered geologically simplistic, consisting mostly of one kind of rock, in contrast to the diverse geology of Earth. The rocks that cover most of Mars’s surface are dark-colored volcanic rocks, called basalt, a type of rock also found throughout Hawaii for instance.

But earlier this year, the Mars Curiosity rover surprised scientists by discovering soils with a composition similar to granite, a light-colored, common igneous rock. No one knew what to make of the discovery because it was limited to one site on Mars.

The new study bolsters the evidence for granite on Mars by using remote sensing techniques with infrared spectroscopy to survey a large volcano on Mars that was active for billions of years. The volcano is dust-free, making it ideal for the study. Most volcanoes on Mars are blanketed with dust, but this volcano is being sand-blasted by some of the fastest-moving sand dunes on Mars, sweeping away any dust that might fall on the volcano. Inside, the research team found rich deposits of feldspar, which came as a surprise.

“Using the kind of infrared spectroscopic technique we were using, you shouldn’t really be able to detect feldspar minerals, unless there’s really, really a lot of feldspar and very little of the dark minerals that you get in basalt,” Wray said.

The location of the feldspar and absence of dark minerals inside the ancient volcano provides an explanation for how granite could form on Mars. While the magma slowly cools in the subsurface, low density melt separates from dense crystals in a process called fractionation. The cycle is repeated over and over for millennia until granite is formed. This process could happen inside of a volcano that is active over a long period of time, according to the computer simulations run in collaboration with Josef Dufek, who is also an associate professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech.

“We think some of the volcanoes on Mars were sporadically active for billions of years,” Wray said. “It seems plausible that in a volcano you could get enough iterations of that reprocessing that you could form something like granite.”

This process is sometimes referred to as igneous distillation. In this case the distillation progressively enriches the melt in silica, which makes the melt, and eventual rock, lower density and gives it the physical properties of granite.

“These compositions are roughly similar to those comprising the plutons at Yosemite or erupting magmas at Mount St. Helens, and are dramatically different than the basalts that dominate the rest of the planet,” Dufek said.

Another study published in the same edition of Nature Geoscience by a different research team offers another interpretation for the feldspar-rich signature on Mars. That team, from the European Southern Observatory and the University of Paris, found a similar signature elsewhere on Mars, but likens the rocks to anorthosite, which is common on the moon. Wray believes the context of the feldspar minerals inside of the volcano makes a stronger argument for granite. Mars hasn’t been known to contain much of either anorthosite or granite, so either way, the findings suggest the Red Planet is more geologically interesting than before.

“We talk about water on Mars all the time, but the history of volcanism on Mars is another thing that we’d like to try to understand,” Wray said. “What kinds of rocks have been forming over the planet’s history? We thought that it was a pretty easy answer, but we’re now joining the emerging chorus saying things may be a little bit more diverse on Mars, as they are on Earth.”

This research is supported by the NASA Mars Data Analysis Program under award NNX13AH80G. Any conclusions or opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the sponsoring agencies.

CITATION: J Wray, et al. “Prolonged magmatic activity on Mars inferred from the detection of felsic rocks.” (Nature Geoscience, 2013) http://dx.doi.org/DOI 10.1038/NGEO1994.

Brett Israel | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.gatech.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State

nachricht What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>