New Mineral Discovery On Mars Forces Scientists To Reevaluate Its History
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, has detected significant amounts of a silica mineral called tridymite on the surface of Mars and the discovery has scientists stunned.
This surprising find may now force scientists to rethink the volcanic history of Mars, as this new evidence suggests that the planet may have in fact once had explosive volcanoes that led to the presence of the mineral.
NASA planetary scientist at Johnson and lead author of the paper, Richard Morris explains “On Earth, tridymite is formed at high temperatures in an explosive process called silicic volcanism. Mount St. Helens, the active volcano in Washington State, and the Satsuma-Iwojima volcano in Japan are examples of such volcanoes. The combination of high silica content and extremely high temperatures in the volcanoes creates tridymite.”
Doug Ming, ARES chief scientist at Johnson and co-author of the paper points out “I always tell fellow planetary scientists to expect the unexpected on Mars. The discovery of tridymite was completely unexpected. This discovery now begs the question of whether Mars experienced a much more violent and explosive volcanic history during the early evolution of the planet than previously thought.”
A paper on the team’s findings has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in an effort to stimulate scientists to re-examine the way tridymite forms.