The Red Planet has provided us with one of the most incredible scientific expeditions of all time. It may even surprise us how much we don’t know about our neighboring planet. Mars has water ice at its poles and a thin atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide. However, researchers also discover that some of the things they held true might be in fact different than they expected.
The Gale crater is the most well-known “location” on planet Mars and it represented the landing spot for the Curiosity rover nine years ago. The reason why scientists have chosen this particular place as the starting point of their exploration of the Red Planet is in fact an assumption that the crater was at one point in time an actual lake. As recent data shows, this assumption might not be in fact true.
Geologists were the last ones to weigh in on this topic and they made some important discoveries. The sediments of the crater collected by Curiosity stood at the center of this research and based on the chemical elements discovered it is highly unlikely that they belong to an ancient lake environment.
“The key point is that some elements are mobile, or easy to dissolve in water, and some elements are immobile, or in other words, they stay in the rocks. Whether an element is mobile or immobile depends not only on the type of element but also on the properties of the fluid,” noted geologist Joe Michalski.
Scientists used a mixed approach, using texture analysis, X-ray diffraction, as well as chemical measurements and the results revealed that those sediments were fixed in the crater in a much drier environment. While there might have been some water in the crater, it was in much lower quantities than expected.