New findings reinforce the theory that Mars was habitable

New findings reinforce the theory that Mars was habitable
New findings reinforce the theory that Mars was habitable

Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States (USA) suggest that Mars may have been a habitable planet in ancient times, after analyzing the latest samples collected by the Curiosity rover, according to a statement from the organization.

The ChemCam instrument aboard Curiosity has detected elevated levels of manganese in lake-bottom rocks in the Murray Formation, located in the ancient Gale Crater on Mars.

Thus, the study has revealed that the coarse-grained rocks present an enrichment of up to 45 times in manganese and up to 1.5 times in iron compared to the average chemical composition of the fine-grained rocks of the formation. The authors point out that these deposits formed in a river, a delta or near the shore of an ancient lake.

It is difficult for manganese oxide to form on the surface of Mars, so we did not expect to find it in such high concentrations in a coastal deposit, explained Patrick Gasda, a scientist who led the research recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The expert added that on Earth, these types of deposits occur all the time due to the high level of oxygen in our atmosphere produced by photosynthetic life and the microbes that help catalyze these manganese oxidation reactions.

The sedimentary rocks explored by the rover are a mixture of sand, silt and mud. The sandy rocks are more porous and groundwater can pass more easily through them compared to the types of mud that make up most of the lake bed rocks in Gale Crater. Due to its characteristics, it is believed that this state of the rocks may have required oxidation conditions similar to those found on Earth.

Our planet’s microbes use the oxidation of manganese as an energy source for their metabolism, and if there was life on ancient Mars, the greater amounts of manganese in these lakeshore rocks would have been an extremely useful energy source for life. . (Text and photo: RT)

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