Curiosity finds high concentrations of silica on Mars, suggesting ‘water activity’

Curiosity finds high concentrations of silica on Mars, suggesting ‘water activity’

American space agency NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has found higher than expected concentrations of silica, suggesting considerable water activity on the Red Planet.

The Curiosity rover has for some time been exploring the Bagnold Dune Field on the Red Planet’s lower Mount Sharp. While Sand Dunes are quite common on our Earth, it is the first time that a dune field has been found on Mars.

Data sent back to Earth by Curiosity prompted scientists to study how these sand dunes move on Mars. Curiosity found that the chemical compound silica is present in higher amounts in this area of Mars. Silica is a rock-forming chemical that comes into existence with the combination of the elements silicon and oxygen. On Earth, it is commonly seen as quartz.

NASA scientists say that there are just two ways to increase the concentration of silica, and both ways involve water.

Albert Yen, a member of Curiosity science team, said, “These high-silica compositions are a puzzle. You can boost the concentration of silica either by leaching away other ingredients while leaving the silica behind, or by bringing in silica from somewhere else.”

Jens Frydenvang, of the Los Alamos National Laboratory & the University of Copenhagen, said they were working with a number of hypotheses on how silica got so enriched on Mars, but added that all those hypotheses required considerable water activity.

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