New map of Mars’ water resources will prove invaluable for future research

(ORDO NEWS) — A new map of Mars shows mineral deposits across the planet. It has been painstakingly created over the past decade using data obtained by the spectrometers of the Mars Express automatic interplanetary station – OMEGA (Observatoire pourla Mineralogie, l’Eau, les Glaces et l’Activite) and CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars).

The map shows the locations of water minerals. Their prevalence was a big surprise: ten years ago, planetary scientists knew only about 1,000 places with deposits of these minerals, but hundreds of thousands of such areas are indicated on the new map.

There can be no doubt that water has played a huge role in shaping geology across the planet. The new map shows that things are much more complicated than previously thought.

Although many Martian salts probably formed later than the clays, many exceptions can be seen on the map: mixing of salts and clays, and salts that are older than clays.

“The evolution from a lot of water to no water is not as straightforward as we thought. The water didn’t disappear overnight. We see a huge variety of geological contexts, so that no single process or simple time scale can explain the evolution of the mineralogy of Mars.

This is the first result of our study. Second, if life processes on Earth are excluded, Mars exhibits the same diversity of mineralogy as Earth does,” says John Carter of the Institute for Space Astrophysics (IAS).

Jezero Crater and its surroundings contain many minerals that have been altered by water in the past. These are predominantly clay and carbonate salts. Of the minerals identified in this region, carbonate is a salt, Fe/Mg phyllosilicates are clays rich in iron and magnesium, and hydrated silica is a form of silica that forms opal.

As part of the creation of a new global map of the minerals of Mars, it was found that the Oxia Plateau is rich in clays.

These clays included the iron- and magnesium-rich minerals smectite and vermiculite, as well as local kaolin, which is known on Earth as China clay.

Hydrated silica has also been mapped over an ancient delta at Oxia. The data were obtained using ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

This work is very important for mission planners. First, water minerals still contain water molecules. Together with known water ice burial sites, this provides possible sites for water extraction, which is key to establishing human bases on Mars. Clays and salts are also common building materials on Earth.

Secondly, even before humans go to Mars, water minerals will provide us with fantastic places to conduct scientific research.

As part of this mineral resource mapping campaign, a clay-rich area of ​​the Oxia Plateau was discovered and chosen as the landing site for the ESA Mars rover Rosalind Franklin.


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