“This work has now established that when you are studying the ancient terrains in detail, not seeing these minerals is actually the oddity,” said in the statement John Carter, Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale (IAS) and Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (LAM), Université Paris-Saclay and Aix Marseille Université, France.
Scientists have deduced that water played a huge role in shaping geology around the Red Planet. The big question is whether the water was always there or showed up for shorter, more intense periods. While not yet providing a definitive answer, the new results certainly give researchers a better tool for finding the answer.
“I think we have collectively oversimplified Mars,” said Carter. So far, planetary scientists have tended to think that only a few types of clay minerals on Mars were created during its wet period, which is far from the truth the map reveals.
While it’s possible that many of the Martian salts did form later than the clays, the map shows many exceptions where there is intimate mixing of salts and clays and some salts that are presumed to be older than some clays.
“The evolution from lots of water to no water is not as clear cut as we thought; the water didn’t just stop overnight. We see a huge diversity of geological contexts so that no one process or simple timeline can explain the evolution of the mineralogy of Mars. That’s the first result of our study. The second is that if you exclude life processes on Earth, Mars exhibits a diversity of mineralogy in geological settings just as Earth does,” Carter adds.