Leicester scientists help to shed light on ancient Mars

Pale "halos" around fractures in bedrock analysed by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover contain copious silica, indicating that ancient Mars had liquid water for a long time.

University of Leicester scientists are part of the science teams that gathered and analysed data from the rover’s ChemCam.

Professor John Bridges from our Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: “The UK team worked in the science teams that gathered and analysed the ChemCam data. This is the laser that we shoot at the rocks in Gale Crater, with the resultant light emission being used to calculate the chemical composition.

“Most samples on Mars have basaltic compositions but here we found high silica enrichments which resulted from an input from a high silica volcanic source followed by burial and remobilisation of opal-like deposits. We are following up this work to determine what are the source compositions that fed sediments into Gale Crater to better understand how the Mars crust evolved and provided potential habitats for life.”

A report about these findings, which the University of Leicester scientists are co-authors of, has been published in Geophysical Research Letters.