October 5, 2014
Kellie Wall, a 21-year-old geology student at Washington State University, USA, has developed a method to detect water on Mars. The volcanic rocks on Mars analyzed by Curiosity are similar in composition to those on Earth. We do not know how the former were formed, but we do know the latter. And that offers clues to the ancient existence of water on Mars.
Wall’s research has now been published in Nature Communications and is a technique that many scientists have so far overlooked. Wall has established a system to measure and quantify the texture of volcanic rocks on Earth, the amount of crystal they contain and, by extension, whether or not they were in contact with water.
Volcanic lava in a liquid state cools very quickly when it comes into contact with water, giving rise to a rock with a basically crystalline composition. Sin does not come into contact with water, it takes much longer to cool down and only forms small crystals. Using an X-ray diffraction machine, Wall analyzed volcanic basalt rocks from the US, New Zealand and Italy (from Mount Etna), and compared the results with the analysis the Curiosity rover made of Martian rock samples with its own X-ray diffractometer. The result is a common comparison scale that allows us to know whether or not the analyzed Martian rocks came into contact with water at some point in their formation.
via A 21-year-old girl develops a method to detect water on Mars.
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