Scientists unravel the secret of a mineral found on Mars more than seven years ago

In 2015, the Curiosity rover drilled into one of the intriguing rocks of Gale Crater, which was once part of a large lake. After sampling, grayish dust formed near the well. In its composition, a mineral was found that no one expected to meet on the Red Planet. We are talking about tridymite, a rare variety of quartz formed as a result of certain types of volcanic activity.

In a recent study, scientists tried to explain its origin.

The main version says that the mysterious mineral, which is extremely rare even on Earth, was formed on the Red Planet as a result of a powerful eruption of an ancient volcano. But first, the volcanic activity of Mars was previously considered unsuitable for the production of silica-rich minerals such as tridymite. And secondly, there are no visible volcanoes near Gale Crater.

The discovery of tridymite in mudstone in Gale Crater is one of the most amazing finds made by the Curiosity rover in 10 years of exploring Mars.

Dr. Kirsten Siebach

Rice University, USA

As part of the version proposed by scientists, in the hearth of one of the so far unknown volcanoes, Martian magma remained longer than usual, where it underwent partial crystallization and accumulation of silicon. It was then erupted as a huge ash cloud containing tridymite, which was then deposited in the Gale Crater lake and surrounding rivers.

The findings suggest that the eruption took place over 3 billion years ago , when the planet was transforming from the wetter world of the past to the dry and cold desert of the present.

This work suggests that Mars may have a much more complex and intriguing volcanic history than we could have imagined before Curiosity, the authors of the study noted.

A similar origin of the mineral on Earth is known only in one place, on Lake Tecocomulco in Mexico. There, tridymite was found in volcanic rocks raised from the bottom of the reservoir.

Scientists have not yet found the place where the ancient Martian volcano was located, which became the source of the found mineral. This will take some time, as it is quite difficult to distinguish the impact craters of Mars from the volcanic calderas that have been eroded for billions of years.

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