Discovery: Notion Change as trace of water found in Mars

When it comes to life, after Earth comes Mars. Although it has been vehemently argued, Mars has been seen by Scientists and astronomers as a planet that will likely have life existance.  The new research reveals that a mineral found in Martian meteorites – which had been considered as a proof of an ancient dry environment on Mars – may have originally been a hydrogen-containing mineral that could indicate a more water-rich history for the Red Planet.  

A hydrogen-containing mineral known as whitlockite has been created by a group of Scientists at  the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). After shock-compression experiments on whitlockite samples that simulated the conditions of ejecting meteorites from Mars, the researchers studied their microscopic makeup with X-ray experiments.

The X-ray experiments showed that whitlockite can become dehydrated from such shocks, forming merrillite, a mineral that is commonly found in Martian meteorites but does not occur naturally on Earth.

Martin Kunz, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) in the US said that "This is important for deducing how much water could have been on Mars, and whether the water was from Mars itself rather than comets or meteorites."
"If even a part of merrillite had been whitlockite before, it changes the water budget of Mars dramatically," said Oliver Tschauner, a professor at UNLV.
There could be possibility of life in Mars since the study shows that whitlockite can be dissolved in water and contains phosphorous, an essential element for life on Earth - and merrillite appears to be common to many Martian meteorites.

Read: The New planet with three Suns

The pressures and temperatures generated in the shock experiments, while comparable to those of a meteorite impact, lasted for only about 100 billionths of a second, or about one-tenth to one-hundredth as long as an actual meteorite impact. Researchers blasted the synthetic whitlockite samples with metal plates fired from a gas-pressurised gun at speed of up to about half a mile per second, or about 1,678 miles per hour, and at pressures of up to about 363,000 times greater than the air pressure in a basketball.

Tschauner also said that the fact that experiments showed even partial conversion to merrillite in these lab-created conditions, a longer duration impact would likely have produced "almost full conversion" to merrillite. He equally added that this latest study appears to be one of the first of its kind to detail the shock effects on synthetic whitlockite, which is rare on Earth.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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