Discover minerals that usually only appear on Earth on Mars

The mineral may have originated from an unusual volcanic eruption, the researchers revealed. In fact, the mineral, which normally occurs only on Earth, may have formed on the Red Planet more than 3 billion years ago.

NASA’s Curiosity probe discovered the mineral in a rock at the center of the 154-kilometer-wide Gale crater on July 30, 2015. This probe drilled a small hole in the rock and pulled out a silver-colored specimen. After analyzing the sample, the scientists discovered it was tridymite – a rare type of quartz, made entirely of silicon dioxide, or silica, which is only born during certain types of volcanic activity.

This unusual finding was a surprise to scientists.

“The discovery of tridymite at Gale Crater is one of the most unexpected observations made by the Curiosity probe in 10 years of Mars exploration,” said Kirsten Siebach, study co-author and planetary scientist at the University Rice in Houston said.

The discovery of tridymite surprised researchers for two main reasons, said lead study author Valerie Payré, a planetary scientist at Northern Arizona University and Rice University. First, volcanic activity on Mars was previously thought to be unsuitable for the production of silica-rich minerals such as tridymite. Second, scientists believe that Gale Crater was once a lake and there were no volcanoes nearby. This makes scientists have a headache to think how this mineral appeared at the bottom of the lake.

Scientists think a volcanic eruption released tridymite-rich ash into the air, and the mineral then fell into the upper lake, now Gale Crater.

When the ash falls into the water, it separates into separate parts by physical and chemical reactions. Scientists have questioned why the collected tridymite sample is so pure and uncontaminated by ash.

Currently, scientists are not sure which volcano on the Red Planet produced this specimen of tridymite. It could be a small eruption nearby or a large eruption further away. It is difficult to locate ancient volcanoes on Mars because it has to distinguish between craters caused by meteorite impacts from craters that have been eroded over billions of years.

Scientists also have to explain how tridymite was formed on Mars, where conditions are very different from those on Earth.

According to scientist Payré, future discoveries from Curiosity and its successor Perseverance, as well as samples of Martian rock brought back to Earth, will help reveal more information about volcanic activity on the stars. Fire.

“This study shows that Mars has a much more complex and mysterious volcanism history than we knew before the Curiosity probe,” said scientist Kirsten Siebach.

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