Scientists found new evidence to support the theory claiming that Mars once had diverse environments throughout its history. This new data was gathered by NASA’s Curiosity rover, which has been studying the Red Planet since 2012.
Curiosity has been analyzing the Gale Crater and its Mount Sharp in particular. The layers of rocks at the base of the mountain reportedly accumulated as sediments at the bottom of ancient lakes, dated back some 3.5 billion years.
Initial rock samples, collected by the rover from the lowermost layers, seem to suggest and strengthen the existence of diverse environments throughout Mars’s history. Scientists reached this conclusion after detecting a wide variety of minerals in the said rock samples. Also, these suggest that, over time, the planet’s water environments themselves suffered changes.
Mars: Diverse Environments and Many More Faces than Believed
“We went to Gale Crater to investigate these lower layers of Mount Sharp that have these minerals that precipitated from water and suggest different environments,” stated Elizabeth Rampe from NASA.
Rampe continued by pointing out the similarities between Earth and Mars from some 3.5 billion years ago. It is believed that, at the time, life was just beginning to take develop and take hold on our planet. Now, based on the rock samples, the researchers believe that early Mars may have been similar to early Earth. According to Rampe, this might also indicate the Red Planet’s possibility of being able to sustain life.
This could have been made possible by the existence of diverse environments. The studied samples offered proof of the presence of waters with different pHs and also varied oxidizing conditions.
By studying the rock layers, scientists can gain new data on the planet’s past conditions and possible habitability. They can do so by determining the exact minerals in layers, which can be important sources of evidence. For example, the base layers revealed traces of primitive magma. Silica-rich minerals then followed them, and then ones similar to quartz. They also found tridymite, clay minerals, and jarosite, as well as others.
A paper with the study results is available in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
Image Source: NASA