Several landers, orbiters and spacecraft have attempted to gain deeper knowledge about the Red Planet in the ongoing search for signs of ancient life on Mars. Now, scientists have used data collected over a decade by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to create a water map of the planet. Featuring sites of aqueous minerals, the map sheds light on ancient traces of water on Mars and is expected to help scientists zero in on ideal locations for the landing of future Mars missions. Finely pieced together, the map shows a location with an abundance of aquatic minerals. These minerals are the result of rocks that were chemically altered by the action of water in the past.
Soil is formed on Earth by the interaction between rocks and water, and different conditions can result in different types of soil. When the water content is high, the soluble elements wash away leaving behind a clay-like kaolin rich in aluminum. The new map shows thousands of sites containing such minerals in the oldest regions of Mars.
To create the map, the researchers used data from ESA’s OMEGA instrument and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) instrument. Operating in the same wavelength range and sensitive to the same minerals, both instruments proved to be ideal for mapping.
Previously, it was known that aqueous minerals were present in small numbers on the planet, indicating that water was limited in both extent and duration. Now, the map has made it clear that water was instrumental in shaping the geology around the Red Planet.
“I think we’ve collectively overshadowed Mars,” said planetary scientist John Carter of the University of Paris-Saclay. He said that initially, it was thought that only certain types of soil formed on Mars during the wet period, but the new map also includes some intimate mixtures of salts and clays, and some salts that are older than some soils. can be.
The findings have been published in two papers in the journal science direct,