An amazing new discovery on the Red Planet could have huge implications in the search for life.
A new finding on the surface of Mars could totally change the hunt for life on the Red Planet. Analysts have released their results from a 2013 sampling of the element manganese in a piece of rock and all signs point to an oxygen-rich Martian atmosphere at one time in its history.
NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover identified large amounts of the element manganese in a rock back in 2013, which scientists were not expecting to find. The analysis of that rock has led to a new understanding about the Martian atmosphere.
Planetary crusts are typically composed of basalt, which is what forms when lava cools near the surface of the planet, so scientists were surprised when the rover found manganese instead of basalt on one rock formation. Scientists think manganese could only have condensed this much if basalt rock was dissolved in oxygenated water, combining the trace amounts of manganese found in basalt into one big clump.
While scientists have long believed that Mars once had plenty of surface water, there was no indication that there was ever much oxygen on the planet.
“It’s hard to confirm whether this scenario for Martian atmospheric oxygen actually occurred,” Nina Lanza, a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author on the study, said in the statement. “But it’s important to note that this idea represents a departure in our understanding for how planetary atmospheres might become oxygenated.”