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It has not rained on Mars for a very long time, however these dunes appear to be raindrops and they’re full of water-based chemical substances

Mars is understood for being a dry and arid place, dominated by dusty purple sand dunes and the place water exists virtually fully within the type of ice and permafrost. The benefit of this, nonetheless, is the truth that these situations are the explanation why many options of the floor of Mars are so properly preserved. And as have proven missions resembling Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), this enables some fairly fascinating discoveries.

Take the current photograph taken by Curiosity's Excessive Decision Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) because it climbed over the Copernicus crater on Mars. This picture confirmed options just like raindrops which might be truly indicators of olivine-rich sand dunes. These similar sorts of dunes exist on Earth however are very uncommon as a result of this mineral warms up rapidly and turns into clay in humid environments.

Geologists use olivine to explain a gaggle of rock-forming minerals generally present in igneous rocks. This mineral is so named due to its inexperienced colour, resulting from its chemical composition – silicate-based (SiO4) and sure to magnesium or iron (Mg2SiO4; Fe2SiO4). On Earth, it’s often present in igneous rocks of darkish colour and is without doubt one of the first minerals to crystallize through the gradual cooling of the magma.

Black and white picture of the olivine-rich dunes within the Copernicus crater, taken by the HiRISE instrument on the MRO. Credit score: NASA / JPL / College of Arizona

Nonetheless, it’s uncommon to seek out so many sand dunes wealthy in olivine deposits on Earth, because the MRO has proven. The reason being that olivine is without doubt one of the commonest minerals on the Earth's floor and is quickly remodeled into a mix of clay minerals, iron oxides and ferrihydrites (iddingsite) within the presence of water.

Nonetheless, deposits of olivine have been found in meteorites, on the Moon, on Mars and even on the Itokawa asteroid (visited by the Japanese Hayabusa Mission in 2005). As asteroids and meteorites are basically remnants of photo voltaic system formation, this could counsel that olivine minerals have been current on the time.

As well as, the presence of iddingsite on Mars and the Moon is a robust indication that liquid water as soon as existed there. By finding out deposits of olivine and its byproducts, scientists might decide when Mars went from the presence of liquid water to its floor within the very dry place it’s at this time.

Within the meantime, the invention of those quite a few dunes on Mars reveals the preservation of sure traits over time. If there was certainly a wind and water erosion on Mars, the crater of Copernicus would rapidly turn out to be a area wealthy in clay. As all the time, Mars dazzles us with a singular mixture of similarities and variations with the Earth!

Additional studying: HiRISE

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