NASA Rover Finds Gemstones on Mar

NASA's Curiosity Rover has discovered opals — gemstones formed by silica alteration by water — on the Red Planet's Gale Crater.

NASA Rover Finds Gemstones on Mar
Image credit: AP [via Forbes]

Facts

  • NASA's Curiosity Rover has discovered opals — gemstones formed by silica alteration by water — on the Red Planet's Gale Crater.
  • Arizona State University researchers noticed fracture halos — rings of light-toned rocks — by analyzing data and images beamed back by NASA's Curiosity Rover, which has been exploring the Crater since 2012. Further tests confirmed the opal-rich composition of these fracture halos.
  • According to a study published last month in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, the discovery of water-rich opals suggests the Crater — a 96-mile-wide impact basin with a layered mountain in the middle — is actually a dried-up lake bed.
  • The findings mean Mars' subsurface networks and fractures would have once provided water-rich and radiation-shielded conditions, that would have been much more habitable than the harsh modern-day conditions at the surface.
  • Researchers believe the discovery improves the chances of finding evidence of microbial life on Mars, as the data indicates other regions of the Red Planet — such as Jezero Crater — could also be rich in water-based opal gemstones.
  • The realization that water must have survived in Gale Crater long after the lake dried shows that life could have been on Mars for longer than previously thought. Researchers speculate that the Red Planet showed signs of life up until 2.9B years ago — Mars is thought to be approximately 4.6B years old.

Sources: Forbes, Phys, Sun, Asu, Space, and Live Science.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by AstroBiology. As ice has already been found at the poles of Mars, the discovery that water was once within these immensely dry craters proves the planet was undoubtedly a much wetter place a long time ago. Water facilitates life on Earth, and if more of it is found in these crater basins, Mars might one day make for a habitable environment for human beings.
  • Narrative B, as provided by BGR. Though it's a possibility, the idea of finding life on Mars, let alone the ability of humans to live there one day, is a big stretch. Even if vast amounts of water and life are found in the planet's subsurface areas, it's because they are also shielded from the Sun's dangerous radiation — something surfaces above can't be protected from due to Mars' thin atmosphere.

Predictions