The Gale Crater on Mars has always been a fascinating place for scientists to study the red planet as the region showcases significant traits that tell a story about what Mars was like in the past. Adding to the list of unfolding mysteries of the planet, a new study has provided evidence for a long and varied history of water in Mars’ Gale Crater.
Researchers at the Open University and the University of Leicester concluded in the new study that mineral veins found in the region were formed by the evaporation of ancient Martian lakes. As part of their research, scientists used the Mars Curiosity rover to explore Yellowknife Bay in Gale Crater on Mars, examining the mineralogy of veins that were once filled with groundwater.
“The taste of this Martian groundwater would be rather unpleasant, with about 20 times the content of sulphate and sodium than bottled mineral water for instance,” Professor John Bridges from the University of Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy said in a statement, adding that “some microbes on Earth do like sulphur and iron rich fluids, because they can use those two elements to gain energy. Therefore, for the question of habitability at Gale Crater the taste of the water is very exciting news.”
According to the study, the veins on Mars’ surface formed as the sediments from the ancient lakes were buried, heated to about 50 degrees Celsius and corroded. While the evaporation of ancient lakes in the Yellowknife Bay would have resulted in the formation of silica and sulphate-rich deposits, subsequent dissolution by groundwater of these deposits likely led to the formation of pure sulphate veins in the region.
“These results provide further evidence for the long and varied history of water in Gale Crater,” Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity Project Scientist from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in the statement. “Multiple generations of fluids, each with a unique chemistry, must have been present to account for what we find in the rock record today.”