NASA’s robot on Mars, aptly named Curiosity, has recently come across some fascinating finds which will help solve the mystery of the presence of water on the Red Planet.
As noted by The Christian Science Monitor, “In the last several months, Curiosity has for the first time found an abundance of the rock-forming chemical silica, a mineral composed of silicon and oxygen and, on Earth, usually deposited by water.”
As shared by NASA, “Curiosity rover has found much higher concentrations of silica at some sites it has investigated in the past seven months than anywhere else it has visited since landing on Mars 40 months ago.”
In a video which can be viewed below, astro-geologist Jens Frydenvang from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico shared, “We don’t have a full understanding yet of what this means.” He added, “On earth, all the environments where we find this kind of silica require some kind of water activity. Often it’s also a very nice environment to find microbial life.”
NASA further shared, “Adding to the puzzle, some silica at one rock Curiosity drilled, called ‘Buckskin,’ is in a mineral named tridymite, rare on Earth and never seen before on Mars.”
On our planet Earth, the mineral tridymite is found in volcanic deposits with rich silica content. So, the mineral being discovered hints at volcanic evolution on Mars. It is also possible that tridymite could have formed by other processes.
As reported by The Christian Science Monitor, Elizabeth Rampe, planetary geologist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said, “We could solve this by determining whether trydymite in the sediment comes from a volcanic source or has another origin.” She added, “A lot of us are in our labs trying to see if there’s a way to make tridymite without such a high temperature.”
Geophysicist Ashwin Vasavada shared at the American Geophysical Union meeting that “scientists have observed signs of the building blocks for life on Mars.” So, keep coming back to see how the mystery unfolds.