A possible evolutionary scenario – Københavns Universitet

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A possible evolutionary scenario

Our observations from the magnetic properties experiments fit the following scenario for the evolution of the magnetic minerals found on Mars so far:

The primary minerals (such as olivine and pyroxene) in the dust were formed from the basaltic rocks of the planet by physical processes such as wind erosion, daily temperature cycles and comminution by meteorite impacts, all of which have been going on since the formation of the planet.

The secondary minerals (such as hematite) could have originated from either one, or possibly both, of the following scenarios:

  • Thin films of atmospheric water could have condensed on the rock morning after morning causing a slow alteration of the minerals.
  • The secondary minerals could originate from an early water rich period on Mars.

The last scenario is of course very interesting with respect to the possibility of finding past or present life on Mars.

One way to determine which of these scenarios is true is to look at the morphology of the dust particles. In the case of the first scenario, the secondary minerals would be an integral part of the bulk of the particles, but in case of the second, they would only be bound electrostatically to their surface. So far no instrument on any Mars lander or rover has been able to provide sufficient information on the dust morphology to distinguish between these two scenarios.