NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finds Silica Deposits on Mars
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Silica on Mars
NASA’s Curiosity Rover has found high deposits of silica on Mars that could help scientists learn more about the red planet. Silica, a rock–forming chemical commonly found on Earth as quartz was discovered by Curiosity after it studied some sites in the planet for the past seven months. It was found that silica made up about nine–tenths of the composition of rocks.
A Curiosity team member, Albert Yen said, “These high–silica compositions are a puzzle. You can boost the concentration of silica either by leaching away other ingredients leaving behind the silica or by bringing in silica from somewhere else.” The acidic water would carry other ingredients away and leaves behind silica whereas alkaline or neutral water could bring in dissolved silica and build up its deposits.
The discovery of silica on Mount Sharp has interesting links to an earlier NASA rover named Spirit. While drilling at a rock called Buckskin, Curiosity discovered tridymite, a rare mineral on Earth. Tridymite generally occurs on Earth due to high temperatures in igneous or metamorphic rocks. Buckskin was identified by Curiosity as lakebed deposits which may provide evidence of a magmatic evolution on Mars.