The new map shows the presence of minerals formed in the presence of water and they are everywhere on the Red Planet.
Some minerals - notably a variety of clays and salts (sulphates, carbonates and silicates) - are formed from volcanic rocks by the action of water. They are found not only on Earth but also on the neighbouring planet. Until recently, about a thousand such deposits were identified on Mars, which were considered to be particularly interesting areas to study. However, a new map has shown that they are found there by the hundreds of thousands, everywhere. Rare, rather, may be called the areas where they are not. About this scientists write in an article published in the journal Icarus; also about the work reported in a press release ESA.
John Carter (John Carter) and his colleagues from France and Spain have used data obtained from the Martian orbit European observatory Mars Express and American MRO. It is worth recalling that Mars Express has a Russian neutron detector, which some time ago made it possible to map the distribution of ice deposits on the surface of the Red Planet. Now scientists have turned to other tools - spectrometers OMEGA (on Mars Express) and CRISM (on the MRO), designed for mineralogical research.
Both spectrometers operate in a close range of visible and infrared wavelengths, and their data are compatible. OMEGA is better suited to take a broad view of the surface, while CRISM, with its resolution of up to 15 metres per pixel, allows a better view of individual small areas. What they found came as a big surprise to everyone. "I think we were looking at Mars in an oversimplified way," Carter noted.
He said that until now it had been thought that only a limited set of new "water" minerals had had time to form during the short period that the Red Planet was full of moisture, followed by a total desiccation that left deposits of salts. The new map shows that, in reality, the story was more complicated. In particular, the alternation and mixing of salts and clays in different areas may indicate several cycles of desiccation and humidity that Mars experienced in the distant past.
Well, such deposits may become a valuable resource for the construction of a permanent base on the Red Planet in the future. Minerals formed in the presence of water may retain some of it - or even accompany deposits of water ice. Clays are a convenient material for construction. And if life could once have originated on Mars, it would be in such areas.
It is not without reason that the European Rosalind Franklin rover has already been selected to land in one of these areas. Because of events in Ukraine, the project, which was implemented jointly with Roscosmos, has fallen on hard times. So far its launch has been postponed until 2024. But the landing site has already been determined: it will be the Oxia Planum, a clay plain full of minerals formed in the presence of water.