Curiosity rover finds possible evidence of ancient explosive volcanoes on Mars

NASA scientists discover unexpected mineral on Mars
This low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin." Bright powder from that July 30, 2015, drilling is visible in the foreground. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

(Phys.org)—A large team of researchers from across the U.S. studying data sent back from Mars by the Curiosity rover has found evidence of tridymite, a type of mineral associated with explosive volcanoes here on Earth. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes how the rover found the sample, the testing it underwent, and why it might lead to rethinking the early history of the Red planet.

To date, planetary scientists believe that the geological history of Mars has been very tame compared to our own home planet—this is, they believe, because Mars does not have shifting plates that lead to big earthquakes and explosive volcanoes. Evidence of volcanoes on that planet to date has shown them to be of the steady flowing type such as those that led to the creation of the Hawaiian Islands—they form due to melting hot mantel plumes just below the surface. But now, a mineral find might mean scientists will have to rethink the ancient history of Mars.

The Curiosity rover has been rolling around in Gale crater since 2014, and last year it began digging and studying samples from an area known as Marias Pass. The research team noted that the makeup of the rocks there appeared to suggest silica, so they subjected them to X-ray analysis. That showed the samples to have a very high level of tridymite, which was both surprising and thought provoking because it conflicted so sharply with the history that has been written for the planet—they suggest it appears likely that the mineral was created somewhere else on the planet and was carried to the crater basin. This is because prior research has suggested parts of the basin were once filled with water—that Martian lake would have been filled by streams and rivers coming from distant places bringing with them and depositing sediments, some of which could have been material ejected or formed by explosive volcanoes. But if Mars did have such volcanoes, the team wonders, how did they form in the absence of plate tectonics?

The findings by the team and their theories are likely just the first stage of what will be many projects aimed at reevaluating Mars' history, or looking for ways that tridymite might be created without the intense heat of a violent volcanic eruption.


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More information: Richard V. Morris et al. Silicic volcanism on Mars evidenced by tridymite in high-SiOsedimentary rock at Gale crater, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2016). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1607098113

Abstract
Tridymite, a low-pressure, high-temperature (>870 °C) SiO2 polymorph, was detected in a drill sample of laminated mudstone (Buckskin) at Marias Pass in Gale crater, Mars, by the Chemistry and Mineralogy X-ray diffraction instrument onboard the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity. The tridymitic mudstone has ∼40 wt.% crystalline and ∼60 wt.% X-ray amorphous material and a bulk composition with ∼74 wt.% SiO2 (Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer analysis). Plagioclase (∼17 wt.% of bulk sample), tridymite (∼14 wt.%), sanidine (∼3 wt.%), cation-deficient magnetite (∼3 wt.%), cristobalite (∼2 wt.%), and anhydrite (∼1 wt.%) are the mudstone crystalline minerals. Amorphous material is silica-rich (∼39 wt.% opal-A and/or high-SiO2 glass and opal-CT), volatile-bearing (16 wt.% mixed cation sulfates, phosphates, and chlorides−perchlorates−chlorates), and has minor TiO2 and Fe2O3T oxides (∼5 wt.%). Rietveld refinement yielded a monoclinic structural model for a well-crystalline tridymite, consistent with high formation temperatures. Terrestrial tridymite is commonly associated with silicic volcanism, and detritus from such volcanism in a "Lake Gale" catchment environment can account for Buckskin's tridymite, cristobalite, feldspar, and any residual high-SiO2 glass. These cogenetic detrital phases are possibly sourced from the Gale crater wall/rim/central peak. Opaline silica could form during diagenesis from high-SiO2 glass, as amorphous precipitated silica, or as a residue of acidic leaching in the sediment source region or at Marias Pass. The amorphous mixed-cation salts and oxides and possibly the crystalline magnetite (otherwise detrital) are primary precipitates and/or their diagenesis products derived from multiple infiltrations of aqueous solutions having variable compositions, temperatures, and acidities. Anhydrite is post lithification fracture/vein fill.

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Jun 14, 2016
Not sure why this is a surprise, considering that Mars has the biggest known volcano. It would have taken huge amounts of energy to build over a long time.

Jun 14, 2016
Hmmm, more evidence of EDM being blamed on volcanism.

But now, a mineral find might mean scientists will have to rethink the ancient history of Mars.

Yep, to say the least.
But if Mars did have such volcanoes, the team wonders, how did they form in the absence of plate tectonics?

Painted yourselves into a corner, huh?
looking for ways that tridymite might be created without the intense heat of a violent volcanic eruption.

But due to ignorance of electric discharge they will probably have to rely on something dark, possibly "dark volcanoes" or "dark hot stuff"....

Jun 14, 2016
@MrData:

As the article describes it, large martian volcanoes would be built up from mantle hotspots, like the Hawaiian island chain. Except martian hotspots are fixed, no plate tectonics, and the resulting volcanoes huge in comparison.

I am no expert, but our explosive volcanoes comes mostly from viscous magma releasing gasses. [ https://en.wikipe...eruption ] The most common viscous magma is andesite, which is a product of plate tectonic subduction, so trapping volatiles such as water and organics. [ https://en.wikipe...Andesite ]

Possibly an explosive martian volcano could have erupted undersea, or something like that.

@cd: No, the scientists are not in a corner. [See e.g. my comment on explosive volcanoes vs plate tectonics; they know this.]

But that is a dumb question. Do you have a _real_ question about geology?

By the way, your ideas are crackpot duds and not even fringe, and no science site material. But I suspect you know that.

Jun 14, 2016
Sorry, TB. A 5 was intended..
Dang old fingers...

Jun 14, 2016
@Toburna Larrsen

Obviously you are reffering to a "dark sea" as there is no evidence of said oceans. Doesn't stop you from making an obviously dumb comment about water on Mars, does it there crackpot.

Jun 14, 2016
Do you have a _real_ question about geology?

You aren't aware of EDM and geology?

http://news.natio...geology/

Ignorance is bliss, isn't there Mr Acolyte.

Jun 14, 2016
@CD
Wow - from National Geographic, no less.
"The Drakensberg—like nearly all other ranges—were generally thought to have been chiseled by the weathering effects of ice, with smaller contributions from heat and naturally occurring chemicals. Turns out, "that's not the case," says Knight.

Lightning splits rock in much the same way as the better-known cause of weathering: frost shattering. Just as water expands when frozen, it also expands if it's been vaporized by lightning. This expansion occurs within cracks in the rocks, wedging blocks apart. But frost shattering generally occurs over thousands of years. Lightning, at temperatures of up to 54,000°F (almost 30,000°C), can burst rocks in milliseconds. "It basically causes a bomb to explode on the rock surface," explains Knight."

I now have a newfound respect for Lightning's powers.

Jun 14, 2016
Lightning, at temperatures of up to 54,000°F (almost 30,000°C), can burst rocks

Those temps are plenty hot enough to create tridymite, and observation doesn't contradict the the theory as it does in the article above.

I now have a newfound respect for Lightning's powers.

Consider other plasma arc discharges on somewhat larger scales, for example;

https://svs.gsfc....id=11095

Electric discharge events can occur across much smaller and much larger scales than the two examples given, to suggest these phenomena don't have an effect of geology is absurd. Real, head up the rearend, type stuff.


Jun 14, 2016
As my wife describes the CME photos, it is "terrifyingly beautiful". Thanks for the link, CD. I will look at it again. The ejection does appear to be filamentary. My wife said that the length of it and its appearance seems to resembles an AXON in a brain.

So I looked up the word, and Wiki says: "A neuron (/ˈnjʊərɒn/ nyewr-on or /ˈnʊərɒn/ newr-on; also known as a neurone or nerve cell) is an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals. These signals between neurons occur via synapses, specialized connections with other cells. Neurons can connect to each other to form neural networks. Neurons are the core components of the brain and spinal cord of the central nervous system (CNS), and of the ganglia of the peripheral nervous system (PNS). "

(cont'd)

Jun 14, 2016
Then I looked up Axon:

"An axon (from Greek ἄξων áxōn, axis), is a long, slender projection of a nerve cell, or neuron, that typically conducts electrical impulses away from the neuron's cell body. Myelinated axons are known as nerve fibers. The function of the axon is to transmit information to different neurons, muscles and glands. In certain sensory neurons (pseudounipolar neurons), such as those for touch and warmth, the electrical impulse travels along an axon from the periphery to the cell body, and from the cell body to the spinal cord along another branch of the same axon. "

I have no medical training, but I was wondering if there is any possibility that STARS might be Neurons and filaments/ejections from Stars are Axons. Information could be traveling via synapses similar to messages in a brain.

I have no way of knowing, but we are intrigued by the idea.

Jun 14, 2016
Then I looked up Axon:

"An axon (from Greek ἄξων áxōn, axis), is a long, slender projection of a nerve cell, or neuron, that typically conducts electrical impulses away from the neuron's cell body. Myelinated axons are known as nerve fibers. The function of the axon is to transmit information to different neurons, muscles and glands. In certain sensory neurons (pseudounipolar neurons), such as those for touch and warmth, the electrical impulse travels along an axon from the periphery to the cell body, and from the cell body to the spinal cord along another branch of the same axon. "

I have no medical training, but I was wondering if there is any possibility that STARS might be Neurons and filaments/ejections from Stars are Axons. Information could be traveling via synapses similar to messages in a brain.

I have no way of knowing, but we are intrigued by the idea.

Jun 14, 2016
oops sorry for the double post.

Jun 15, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jun 15, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jun 15, 2016
I was wondering if there is any possibility that STARS might be Neurons and filaments/ejections from Stars are Axons. Information could be traveling via synapses similar to messages in a brain
Well this sure reminds me of the time when you explained how cells got their ducks and neurons and self-awareness and innards and stuff.

"But God took that pile and, using reason and logic, methodically caused each element to take its proper place in order to form the cell's body and innards so that everything worked perfectly. The cell had all its ducks in a row, so to speak, and God only had to use His Energy to start up the tiny "machine" so that it could become self-aware with EM coursing through its neurons, etc."

-You think there are tiny little souls in each one of them thar piles pussytard?

Jun 15, 2016
I have no medical training, but I was wondering if there is any possibility that STARS might be Neurons and filaments/ejections from Stars are Axons

The man who labeled plasma (the ionized "gas"), Langmuir, coined the term plasma because it resembled the "liveliness" of biological plasma. The analogy of biological phenomena to astrophysical phenomena may be appropriate.

Jun 15, 2016
You have to have at least one screw loose to write such stuff
Just to be clear you do understand that Otto_Szucks et al wrote that stuff?

Jun 16, 2016
Nope. Wasn't me. Theghostofblotto wrote all that. Otto is the mother of lies, whilst accusing many of lying. Pure evil filth, that one.

Jun 16, 2016
Nope. Wasn't me. Theghostofblotto wrote all that. Otto is the mother of lies, whilst accusing many of lying. Pure evil filth, that one
Unlike you pussytard most people here know how to drop quotes into Google to find the source.

So tragic is you.

Jun 16, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jun 17, 2016
Nope. Wasn't me. Theghostofblotto wrote all that. Otto is the mother of lies, whilst accusing many of lying. Pure evil filth, that one
Unlike you pussytard most people here know how to drop quotes into Google to find the source.

So tragic is you.
- OttoRetardo

So where are your links to prove my connection with your quotes? Excerpts are not sufficient. Oh, and how is your mama's pussy, Otto?

Jun 17, 2016
torbjorn_b_g_larsson 4 /5 (13) Jun 14, 2016
@cd: No, the scientists are not in a corner. [See e.g. my comment on explosive volcanoes vs plate tectonics; they know this.]

But that is a dumb question. Do you have a _real_ question about geology?

By the way, your ideas are crackpot duds and not even fringe, and no science site material. But I suspect you know that


I suspect he doesn't, and fear he can't. We're going to have to set up some kind of EU gathering to get the puss out of the festering boil that is contemporary pseudoscience.
- BiteMe

An EU gathering sounds good. Let's see what EU has in comparison to the Standard Model type of hocus pocus. I would like to compare both to make an informed determination. Wouldn't you?

Jun 17, 2016
I have no medical training, but I was wondering if there is any possibility that STARS might be Neurons and filaments/ejections from Stars are Axons

The man who labeled plasma (the ionized "gas"), Langmuir, coined the term plasma because it resembled the "liveliness" of biological plasma. The analogy of biological phenomena to astrophysical phenomena may be appropriate.
- CD85

Thanks for that information, CD. I will look into it further. The plasma aspect of the spaces between physical matter/energy such as stars and planets is something to explore. Maybe we can discuss this possibility again without the rude interference from Theghostofotto who seems utterly terrified of any discussion that infers that cellular activity is also present on a cosmic scale.

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