Scientists Discover Signs Of Past Chemical Reaction On Mars

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Scientists Discover Signs Of Past Chemical Reaction On Mars
Photo Credit: NASA

In February last year, NASA’s Perseverance rover made its way to a crater on Mars that is believed to be a river delta once. The rover is currently inspecting the Jezero crater to gather samples that could hold signs of ancient microbial life on Mars. In a new study, an international team of scientists has presented evidence of past chemical reactions between carbon compounds and liquid water on the Red Planet.

 

“We believe we have found these kinds of liquid water environments and organic compounds together. That’s sort of the limit to how we can describe what we call habitability,” Eva Linghan Scheller, the study’s first author told PopSci.

Evidence Of Ancient Aquatic Environments On Mars

The scientists used NASA’s Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC) instrument for their study. They carried out a deep ultraviolet Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy of three rocks within the Jezero crater.

The Raman spectrometer is built to hunt for signs of liquid water and organic compounds. The tests found evidence of these chemical reactions, hinting at the evidence of aquatic environments that once existed on the Red Planet.

“In the study, we talk a lot about the liquid water interaction with igneous rocks, which are basically crystallized magma,” Scheller added. “What was most surprising about that was the really weird chemistry of some of the evidence that we have from these liquid water environments, which are sodium chloride sulfate mixtures.”

Lab Testing Of Samples Required

In 2014, NASA discovered the first carbon-based matter on Mars, but the latest discovery explains perchlorate, which is a mixture of oxygen and chlorine, formed as briny water.

“What’s really interesting is that materials like these are extremely soluble. If they get into contact with any liquid water, they will basically dissolve,” Scheller explains. “So the last stage that the rock was in contact with liquid water was a last gasp of water on Mars.”

These samples will have to be examined in the lab to determine when the last gasp of water on the Red Planet occurred. As per NASA and the ESA, Martian samples will be brought back to Earth in 2023.

The Perseverance rover is navigating through the Jezero Crater as it is said to have the best chance of giving solid samples. The crater is believed to have hosted an ancient delta around 3.5 billion years ago.

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