A Martian Mineral History
The large dark area right of center on the hemisphere view of Mars is Syrtis Major. The map shows the presence of water-bearing clay minerals identified by OMEGA data. Blue indicates small amounts and orange-red indicates large amounts.
An international team of scientists, including Brown University geologist John Mustard, has created the most comprehensive mineral record of Mars to date. Using data from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission, the record shows three distinct geological eras on the Red Planet, with the earliest marked by the presence of water. Results are published in Science.
Mars started out relatively wet and temperate, underwent a major climate shift, and evolved into a cold, dry place strewn with acidic rock – less than ideal conditions for supporting life.
This is the finding of an international team of scientists who have created the most comprehensive mineral history of Mars, a history closely linked to the presence of liquid water on the planet. According to the mineral record, created with Mars Express mission data and detailed in Science, Mars would only have been hospitable to life in its infancy.
The team’s analysis led them to draw an intriguing conclusion: Liquid water didn’t make the Red Planet red. Instead, the team states, Mars most likely gets its glow from tiny grains of red hematite or possibly maghemite, both riddled with iron.
The Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, Agenzia Spatiale Italiana and the Russian Space Agency funded the OMEGA instrument. In the United States, NASA supported OMEGA data analysis.
Wendy Lawton | EurekAlert!
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