Multiple Lab Analyses of Antarctic Minerals Offer a Better Understanding of Mars

Sat, 25 Jun 2022 23:13:54 GMT
Space Daily

Tucson AZ (SPX) Jun 24, 2022 Results of multiple and complementary lab analyses of minerals found...

Results of multiple and complementary lab analyses of minerals found in samples of material from Antarctica could give scientists a better understanding of the surface and subsurface environment of Mars, and indicate locations of potentially habitable subsurface locations, says a new paper by Planetary Science Institute Research Scientist Elizabeth C. Sklute.

These surface grab samples were tested at Sklute's lab using Fourier transform infrared, Raman, visible to near-infrared, and Mossbauer spectroscopies.

"We took dry samples and we analyzed them by shining light of different wavelengths at them. Each wavelength of light makes the bonds and atoms in a sample react in a different way. Using them all together, it lets us figure out what is there," said Sklute, lead author of "A Multi-Technique Analysis of Surface Materials From Blood Falls, Antarctica" that appears in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Science.

"We take each of these little pieces of information and we paste them together to form a whole image because one technique may be really good at telling you if certain things are there and another technique may completely miss it, simply because the bonds or atoms don't react to those energies," Sklute said.

"Combining these techniques, we have determined the detailed mineralogical assemblage of this Mars analog site and we have learned that the deposit is mostly carbonates and that the red color of Bloody Falls is from the oxidation of dissolved ferrous ions as they are exposed to air, likely in combination with other ions."

"Instead of forming ferric minerals, which is what usually happens on Earth, this brine turns into amorphous nanospheres containing iron and a bunch of other elements, like chlorine and sodium. Amorphous materials have been found to be ubiquitous in Gale Crater on Mars by the Curiosity rover," Sklute said.

"To date, we haven't been able to determine what the amorphous material on Mars is made of. Finding what may be similar material in a natural environment on Earth is really exciting."

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The image was taken by ESA's Mars Express on 25 April 2022.

Conjuring images of veins running through a human eyeball, these channels are likely to have carried liquid water across the surface of Mars around 3.5-4 billion years ago.

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