First evidence discovered that water once dissolved the surface of Mars

February 5, 2013
First evidence discovered that water once dissolved the surface of Mars
The etch pits on the Nakhla sample which the team examined.

(Phys.org)—Scientists at the University of Glasgow together with the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre and the Natural History Museum (London) have discovered the first evidence of water dissolving the surface of Mars.

In a paper published in the Meteoritical Society's journal MAPS, the research team outline the results of tests on a 1.7-gram fragment of a known as Nakhla, which was provided by the .

Nakhla, named after the town in Egypt where it landed in 1911 after being blasted from the surface of Mars by a massive impact around 10 million years ago, has been studied for decades by scientists around the world.

Previous research on Nakhla has provided evidence of the existence of water on Mars through the presence in the meteorite of 'secondary minerals' – types of carbonates, hydrous silicates and sulfates most likely formed when Martian minerals reacted with liquid water.

Professor Martin Lee of the University's School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, lead author of the paper, said: "What has been unclear in the past is exactly where the which made up the secondary minerals within Nakhla came from.

"Using a , we examined many tiny bowl-shaped depressions, known as etch pits, in grains of the minerals olivine and augite found in the meteorite.

"What we've found for the first time is evidence that the etch pits were created when water dissolved the olivine and augite, and that the elements released from those minerals led to the formation of the secondary minerals.

"It's an exciting discovery and better informs of our understanding of how water affected rock on Mars."

By examining the amount of dissolution which occurred in the etch pits formed within the minerals, the team have also been able to estimate how long the water was present within the sample.

Professor Lee added: "From the amount of dissolution we observed, it's likely that this particular piece of Mars was affected by water for only a few months and probably less than a year in total.

"That's certainly not long enough to sustain a life-supporting biosphere; however, the findings of our study are from a tiny piece of a very small chunk of the surface of Mars, so it's difficult to draw any large-scale conclusions about the presence of water on the planet or its implications for life.

"Our research does raise fascinating questions about exactly how long ago the water interacted with the part of Mars which Nakhla came from and where the water might have gone. We'll be continuing to look for clues to the answers to these questions in future research. Results from NASA's Curiosity rover, currently on the surface of , will also help us build a clearer picture of the history of Martian ."

Explore further: Martian meteorite may hold clues to water on the Red Planet

More information: The paper, entitled 'Evidence for silicate dissolution on Mars from the Nakhla meteorite', is published in MAPS and is available as an early view online publication at onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/maps.12053/pdf .

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11 comments

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infiniteMadness
5 / 5 (2) Feb 05, 2013
Maybe some day David Bowie will be right, who knows?
Sinister1811
1.7 / 5 (6) Feb 05, 2013
Maybe some day David Bowie will be right, who knows?


Let's hope there's some truth to that song.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (11) Feb 05, 2013
The "etch pits" are a sure sign of EDM, the patterns left are also representative of EDM. The water hypothesis is highly unlikely to leave such linear formations.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (7) Feb 05, 2013
"EDM"? Electronic dance music?

Well, we now know there was plenty of water on Mars, and it has had visible effects on the landscape. Among them "linear formations", aka gravitational settled river beds, sediments et cetera. Nothing new or even unexpected there.

And nothing that dance music, electrical effects or other imagined stuff has been shown to do even on Earth.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (4) Feb 05, 2013
After 5 s of googling, here is a paper with oriented etch pits in crystals: http://www.scienc...08004274 .
Maggnus
4.4 / 5 (7) Feb 05, 2013
The "etch pits" are a sure sign of EDM, the patterns left are also representative of EDM. The water hypothesis is highly unlikely to leave such linear formations.


Ha ha ha, he looked at the picture and made this comment without even looking at the article. What a maroon!
ereneon
1 / 5 (1) Feb 05, 2013
EDM = Electrical Discharge Machining, a manufacturing method that uses electric sparks to erode material. The commenter was probably joking...
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (4) Feb 05, 2013
EDM = Electrical Discharge Machining, a manufacturing method that uses electric sparks to erode material. The commenter was probably joking...

no, he wasnt joking. he fervently believes everything supports his electric universe worldview.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (9) Feb 05, 2013
Lightning is a form of electric discharge, as is the aurora. So too is electrolysis as in tooBoring's example. We are surrounded by electromagnetic interactions, from sub atomic particles to galactic groups and nearly everything in between. Don't fear it, embrace it.
Allex
5 / 5 (6) Feb 05, 2013
The water hypothesis is highly unlikely to leave such linear formations.

Yet again you show your lack of knowledge in basic chemistry. Water acts just as a medium. The pits correspond to the crystallographic lattice. Defects resulting in water-ion interactions fallow the regular pattern of crystalline structure in these minerals. Seriously, don't try to shine in a field you have no knowledge of.

We are surrounded by electromagnetic interactions

They are lost in the ocean of subatomic particle interactions. Still delusional and still treating electricity as a deity? No change there I see.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (9) Feb 06, 2013
The water hypothesis is highly unlikely to leave such linear formations.

Yet again you show your lack of knowledge in basic chemistry. Water acts just as a medium. The pits correspond to the crystallographic lattice. Defects resulting in water-ion interactions fallow the regular pattern of crystalline structure in these minerals. Seriously, don't try to shine in a field you have no knowledge of.

We are surrounded by electromagnetic interactions

They are lost in the ocean of subatomic particle interactions. Still delusional and still treating electricity as a deity? No change there I see.

Hallelujah my brother, amen. My regards to the Church of Gravity as well.

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