Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Meteorites reveal warm water existed on Mars

Date:
November 15, 2012
Source:
University of Leicester
Summary:
Hydrothermal fractures around Martian impact craters may have been a habitable environment for microbial life. New research into evidence of water on Mars determined that water temperatures on the Red Planet ranged from 50C to 150C. Microbes on Earth can live in similar waters, for example in the volcanic thermal springs at Yellowstone Park, the scientists behind the research point out.

Lafayette (stone) meteorite. Martian Calcium-rich Pyroxenite. Found in 1931, Indiana.
Credit: Wikimedia: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Hydrothermal fractures around Martian impact craters may have been a habitable environment for microbial life.

New research by the University of Leicester and The Open University into evidence of water on Mars, sufficiently warm enough to support life, has been published this week in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

The study determined that water temperatures on the Red Planet ranged from 50C to 150C. Microbes on Earth can live in similar waters, for example in the volcanic thermal springs at Yellowstone Park, the scientists behind the research point out.

The research is based on detailed scrutiny of Mars meteorites on Earth using powerful microscopes in the University of Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy. This was followed-up by computer modeling work at The Open University.

Dr John Bridges, Reader in Planetary Science in the University of Leicester Space Research Centre and Lead Author, said: "Rovers on Mars -- the Mars Exploration rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity -- are studying rocks to find out about the geologic history of the Red Planet. Some of the most interesting questions are what we can find out about water, how much there was and what temperature it might have had.

"While the orbiters and rovers are studying the minerals on Mars, we also have meteorites from Mars here on Earth. They come in three different groups, the shergottites, the nakhlites and the chassignites. Of most interest for the question of water on Mars are the nakhlites, because this group of Martian meteorites contains small veins, which are filled with minerals formed by the action of water near the surface of Mars."

Dr. Bridges and his group studied those alteration minerals in great detail. Altogether eight nakhlite Martian meteorites are known, and all have small but significant differences between them and in their alteration minerals.

Lafayette is one of them; and the most complete succession of newly formed minerals can be found in its veins. Careful investigations of the minerals with an electron microscope and a transmission electron microscope have revealed that the first newly formed mineral to grow along the walls of the vein was iron carbonate. The carbonate would have been formed by CO2-rich water around 150C. When the water cooled to 50C, it would have formed the clay minerals, which were then followed by an amorphous phase that has the same composition as the clay.

Microbes use the reactions during mineral formation to gain energy and elements essential for their survival.

Dr Bridges added: "The mineralogical details we see tell us that there had been high carbon dioxide pressure in the veins to form the carbonates. Conditions then changed to less carbon dioxide in the fluid and clay minerals formed. We have a good understanding of the conditions minerals form in but to get to the details, chemical models are needed."

Dr Susanne Schwenzer, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Physical Sciences at The Open University who previously studied Martian meteorite compositions, said: "Until John's study was finished, I used the findings from orbiters around Mars, and modelled each of the new minerals individually. Those orbiters have found clays on the surface of Mars, but the spatial resolution is very different from the detailed study achieved in the nakhlites. Before we had the detailed study of the nakhlite meteorites, we did not know that carbonates are forming first, followed by the clays. Therefore I was very excited to see the details of the new mineralogical study."

By combining data from both universities, researchers were able to predict water conditions on Mars. Initially, the water was around 150C and contained a lot of CO2, forming the carbonates, then cooled to about 50C, thus forming the clays.

"The driving force heating the water might have been an impact into the Martian surface." Dr. Bridges explains. "And you only have to look at a map of Mars to see how numerous those are on the Martian surface," Dr. Schwenzer adds.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leicester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J.C. Bridges, S.P. Schwenzer. The nakhlite hydrothermal brine on Mars. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2012; 359-360: 117 DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2012.09.044

Cite This Page:

University of Leicester. "Meteorites reveal warm water existed on Mars." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121115133000.htm>.
University of Leicester. (2012, November 15). Meteorites reveal warm water existed on Mars. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121115133000.htm
University of Leicester. "Meteorites reveal warm water existed on Mars." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121115133000.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Space Shuttle Discovery's Legacy, 30 Years Later

Space Shuttle Discovery's Legacy, 30 Years Later

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) The space shuttle Discovery launched for the very first time 30 years ago. Here's a look back at its legacy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) Researchers at Fermilab are using a device called "The Holometer" to test whether our universe is actually a 2-D hologram that just seems 3-D. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

Newsy (Aug. 23, 2014) The private spaceflight company says it is preparing a thorough investigation into Friday's mishap. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) Russian cosmonauts say they've found evidence of sea plankton on the International Space Station's windows. NASA is a little more skeptical. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins