Analyses: the mars soil is brighter than thought

analyses: the mars soil is brighter than thought

This is shown by two independent analyses of images taken by the mars reconnaissance orbiter space probe. The soil of the red planet contains feldspar-rich minerals in many places, as they have previously only been observed on the earth and on the moon. Scientists report on this in the british journal "nature geoscience". Until now, researchers had assumed that the martian soil consisted almost exclusively of dense, dark basalt.

The groups around james wray of the georgia institute of technology (USA) and around john carter of the european southern observatory eso in chile had found with an infrared spectrometer on board of the space probe several mars regions, which have feldspar-rich, lighter rocks. The discovery shows that the bright rock recently discovered by the mars rover "curiosity" is probably not an isolated occurrence. This, in turn, suggests that there was much more magma activity on young mars than previously thought.

Feldspar is usually the product of complex magma processes. On mars, which unlike earth has no known plate tectonics, there is little evidence of significant magma evolution, such as repeated melting and crystallization of lighter, feldspar- and silica-rich rock. Such "felsic" rock forms the essential part of the earth’s crust. The discovery of rocky outcrops by the mars rover had therefore surprised the researchers.

The discovery of coarse regions of feldspar-rich rock may now help clarify the origin of the "curiosity" finds, writes briony horgan of arizona state university (u.S.A.) in an accompanying "nature" commentary.

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