Scientists may have just solved a Martian mystery by studying a rare mineral on Earth

Written on 01/29/2021
Ciarán Mather

A mineral that is commonly seen on Earth's neighbour planet Mars has been discovered in the ice of Antarctica, it has been revealed.

According to Science Magazine, the mineral, which is known as janosite, is a yellow-brown colour and is rare on Earth, but is quite common on Mars.

NASA explained that janosite requires both water and acidic conditions to form, which may further imply that Mars had a very different environment in the past than the barren landscape it has today.

The author of the study, Giovanni Baccolo, a geologist at the University of Milan-Bicocca, explained to the magazine that while ice could have provided the wet environment needed for acidic dust to transform into jarosite, scientists have never actually seen dust and ice chemically reacting to form it.

Now, however, the finding of janosite in Antarctica could provide further weight to this theory.

He added that his team confirmed the mineral’s identity by measuring how it absorbed x-rays, as well as explaining how grains under powerful electron microscopes, confirming it was jarosite. 

'The particles were also noticeably cracked and devoid of sharp edges, a sign that they had formed and eroded from chemical assaults in pockets within the ice, the researchers reported.'

The first known sample of Janosite was first discovered in 2004 by NASA's Opportunity rover. 

The study can be found in the journal Nature Communications.