The ongoing search for signs of ancient life on Mars has seen several landers, orbiters and spacecraft attempt to gain deeper knowledge about the red planet. Now, scientists have mapped Earth’s water using data collected by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) over a decade. The map, which features water-based mineral sites, reveals traces of ancient water on Mars and is expected to help scientists locate Point Zero as an ideal location for future missions to Mars. This map has been carefully pieced together to show a location rich in aqueous minerals. These minerals are the result of chemical changes in the rock in the past due to the action of water.

between rock and water lead to the formation of clay on Earth, and different conditions produce different types of clay. When more water is present, soluble elements to be washed away, leaving aluminum-rich clays such as kaolin. New maps map thousands of sites in the oldest regions of Mars that contain such minerals.

To create the map, the researchers used data from ESA’s OMEGA instrument and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Compact Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) instrument. Operating in the same wavelength range and with sensitivity to the same minerals, the two instruments proved ideal for mapping.

Previously, it was known that water-containing minerals on Earth in small quantities, suggesting that water is limited in both extent and duration. Now, this map clearly shows that water plays an important role in shaping the geology around the Red Planet.

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“I think we collectively oversimplify Mars,” says John Carter, a planetary scientist at the University of Paris-Saclay. Initially, it was thought that only several types of clays formed on Mars during the wet period, but the new map even shows an intimate mix of salts and clays, as well as some salts that may be older than some clays, he added.

The findings have been in two papers in the journal ScienceDirect.


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