The floor of Mars is dotted with thousands and thousands of tiny, spherical crystals averaging a couple of tenth of an inch (2.5 millimeters) in diameter. Although these teensy spherules assist give the Pink Planet its rusty shade, their seemingly blue look in a false-color NASA picture from 2004 has earned them the nickname “blueberries.”
Determined astronauts attempting to juice these “berries” will probably be disenchanted to be taught that they’re truly hematite — mineral compounds composed of iron and oxygen. Nonetheless, a brand new evaluation of comparable minerals on Earth means that this may occasionally not at all times have been the case. Based on a brand new examine, the blueberry stones of Mars might actually be hydrohematite — iron oxide minerals that additionally maintain microscopic traces of historic water.
If that is the case, then the blueberry fields of Mars add as much as a “substantial water reservoir,” the researchers wrote, offering additional proof that the Pink Planet was as soon as moist and blue.
“A lot of Mars’ floor apparently originated when the floor was wetter and iron oxides [like the blueberries] precipitated from that water,” examine co-author Peter Heaney, a professor of geosciences at Penn State College, stated in a press release. “However the existence of hydrohematite on Mars remains to be speculative.”
Contained in the blueberries
Of their new examine, Heaney and his colleagues examined a wide range of hydrohematite samples from the mineral collections on the Smithsonian Establishment and Penn State. The staff studied the composition of the minerals utilizing varied strategies, together with X-ray and infrared scans, and confirmed that the minerals had a few of their iron atoms changed with hydroxyl — a hydrogen and oxygen group that comes from saved water.
Subsequent, the staff needed to be taught the circumstances beneath which hydrohematite kinds, and see if it matched as much as the potential circumstances that may have as soon as existed on Mars. After subjecting samples to a wide range of temperature, acidity and water circumstances, the staff realized that hydrohematite crystallizes in watery, acidic environments at temperatures decrease than 300 levels Fahrenheit (150 levels Celsius).
In different phrases, hydrohematite crystals might have presumably shaped out of the watery circumstances of historic Mars, forming a sedimentary layer of tiny iron pebbles all throughout the planet. Thus, every of the rocky, purple “blueberries” on Mars might comprise as a lot as 8% water by weight.
“On Earth, these spherical constructions are hydrohematite, so it appears affordable to me to invest that the brilliant purple pebbles on Mars are hydrohematite,” Heaney stated.
The important thing phrase right here is “speculate.” Regardless of the visible similarities between hydrohematite on Earth and the Martian blueberries, there isn’t any definitive proof that the blueberries comprise water. When NASA’s Alternative rover first found the blueberries in 2004, it had no approach of figuring out whether or not the stones have been fabricated from hematite or hydrohematite — and current-generation rovers like Perseverance do not both.
Till future missions can convey pristine mineral samples again from the Pink Planet, scientists can solely guess at what lurks winthin the purple stones.
The findings have been printed July 20 within the journal Geology,
Initially printed on Dwell Science.