Curiosity Rover Just Found Evidence For Habitable Environments On Mars
  • picture

The NASA Mars Curiosity rover has gathered some new data, and it has given an indication of what has been described as being a potential history of hydrothermal activity on the Red Planets Gale Crater. This broadens the type of habitable conditions that were once present according to a report by scientists in a new study.

Concentration Of Zinc And Germanium Up To 100 Times Larger

The researchers found concentrations of germanium and zinc that were said to be between 10 to 100 times bigger in the sedimentary rocks found in the Gale Crater when compared to the usual crust on Mars. Germanium and Zinc are enriched together and are often found together in fluids that have a high temperature on Earth among hydro-thermal deposits that contain Sulfur. The elevated concentrations of both germanium and zinc that were found in the Gale Crater may be explained away by the hydrothermal activity occurring in the region said geologist Jeff Berger, from the University of Guelph in Canada. Berger is also the lead author of the study.

Hydro-thermal Activity Evidence Found In Various Locations On Mars

He said that Earth has thermal environments that are extreme and which is home to a wide array of microbial life that have adapted to the conditions and the organisms might have been among the first to have evolved on Earth. The Mars rover has found what might be evidence of hydrothermal activity on various locations on Mars along with in samples of Martian meteorites. The researchers conducted laboratory experiments and computer simulations and they have investigated hydro-thermal sites here on Earth to get an indication of what might have been past hydrothermal activity on Mars.

Now that they have potential evidence that hydrothermal conditions might have been present close to the Gale Crater, the mission of the Curiosity rover is going to take an additional step closer to try to determine if the environmental conditions might have been favorable for microbial life on planet Mars. Generally, hydrothermal deposits are thought to more likely preserve any evidence of microbial life said, Berger.

Gale Crater On Mars Was Formed 3.5 To 3.8 Billion Years Ago

The Gale Crater formed around 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago when a meteor impacted with Mars. Over many hundreds of millions of years after the impact, the crater got filled with around 1 to 2 kilometers of sediment. Research carried out in the past has revealed that the filling of the Gale Crater with the sediment had been linked with streams and lakes that might have existed on and off for many thousands of millions of years. The Gale Crater rock record is going to be fundamental for working out if the conditions are favorable for microbial life said NASA.

The research is going to highlight what might have occurred before and then after the formation of the lake. In the study, the researchers have used the data taken from the Mars Science Laboratory APXS which is situated on the robotic arm of the Curiosity rover. They measured 16 big and small trace elements in the rocks taken from the Gale Crater, and they included zinc. The researchers found that zinc was at concentrations of up to 100 times higher than the average meteorite on Mars and in one vein up to 300 times higher. The study included APXS measurements of germanium during the first 1,360 sols said the author and one sol is a day on Mars, which is actually 24 hours and 39 minutes. The authors of the study suggested that the zinc and germanium presence being clustered so close together is high concentrations might point to hydrothermal activity.

If the target region on the Red Planet had enough water when the Gale Crater was originally formed, the energy of the meteor impact might have heated the crust of the surface of the crater and this might have seen the fluids circulating in the hydrothermal system. The sediments could also have been carried along by wind, water or gravity to the Gale Crater. The authors of the study said that the potential presence of there being hydro-thermal systems in the history of Mars just adds to a variety of conditions that may come under the umbrella of Mars being habitable.