FRANCE: Mars, our nearest contender for a future home, once possessed water that could support life. However, the water was lost during billions of years of evolution, and today there are no signs of it on the surface. However, chemical and spectral study has shown that the Red Planet originally had lakes and rivers that were in motion.
Now that the first water map of Mars has been published by the European Space Agency (ESA), we are one step closer to sending people to Mars. The maps display in great detail the locations of the mineral deposits that have been noted during the past ten years of study and observation.
The map could aid in identifying potential places for missions that could deliver the best scientific value before humans set foot on Mars.
Potent Locations of Water
Together, the Mars Express Observatory from Europe and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter from the United States were able to pinpoint these regions that are rich in water minerals. These minerals are created from rocks that, in the past, underwent chemical alteration by water, transforming into clay and salts over time.
Observations made over the past ten years have revealed hundreds of thousands of such spots in the planet’s oldest regions, in addition to the thousands of such mineral locations that scientists had previously detected in a few regions of the globe. According to John Carter of the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale (IAS), “This investigation has now proved that when you are researching the ancient terrains in-depth, not detecting these minerals is actually the abnormality.”
Aqueous minerals have been discovered everywhere across the globe, proving that water was present on Mars and that it had a significant impact on the geology of the entire planet. Geologists are currently debating whether water existed continuously or only during brief, strong bursts.
Salts, Clays and Minerals
According to John Carter, scientists once believed that only a small number of clay mineral types on Mars were produced during rainy conditions. The new map, though, shows something different. While many Martian salts likely formed later than the clays, the map demonstrates numerous instances where salts and clays were intimately mixed together and some salts that were thought to be older than some clays.
“The transition from a lot of water to none is not as straightforward as we formerly believed; the water didn’t merely stop flowing. We observe a huge diversity of geological contexts, therefore the history of Mars’ mineralogy cannot be explained by a single method or straightforward timeframe. That is the study’s initial finding. The second is that, without living activities on Earth, Mars displays a variety of mineralogy in geological settings in a manner similar to that of Earth,” he continued in the the statement made public by the ESA.
Earth scientists surveyed the planet using information from the Omega instrument on Mars Express and the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on MRO. Omega offers greater spectral resolution and a superior signal-to-noise ratio for global coverage of Mars, whereas Crism offered high-resolution spectral imaging of the surface (down to 15 m/pixel) for highly localised areas of Mars.
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