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Mars: Unexpected manganese deposits indicate conditions suitable for life

Mars: Unexpected manganese deposits indicate conditions suitable for life

NASA's Curiosity rover unexpectedly discovered highly concentrated deposits of manganese and manganese oxide in former riverbeds on Mars, concluding that conditions there were once favorable to life. Los Alamos National Laboratory has this AnnounceIt is the source of the instrument on board the rover that discovered the deposits. Since manganese oxide is difficult to form under conditions found on Mars, such a discovery was not expected, explains Patrick Gasda of the large research facility. On Earth, these types of deposits form all the time because oxygen from living organisms drives the oxidation of manganese. In addition, the material is a lifelong source of energy.

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Since the situation on Mars is different, and it is unclear how oxygen was produced there, the discovery of such highly concentrated deposits of manganese oxide is “really puzzling.” Therefore, Gasda does not believe it is inevitable to draw direct conclusions about past life on the Red Planet. This discovery points to more extensive processes in the Martian atmosphere and water and shows “that more work is needed to understand oxidation on Mars.” Meanwhile, his colleague Nina Lanza says manganese deposits indicate an environment that was surprisingly similar to that found on the shores of Earth's lakes. The one now Presented in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets So the discovery is wonderful.

The sediment was detected using the Chemistry Camera (ChemCam) on board Curiosity. The rover landed on Mars in 2012 and is exploring Aeulis Mons in Gale Crater. Early on, the device found traces of conditions that were suitable for life, with liquid water likely present in lakes and rivers. Among other things, he discovered pebbles that had been washed along the river. We also have Curiosity to thank for evidence that Mars provided the right chemical conditions for microbes billions of years ago. However, it is always only about indirect evidence – but there are also criticisms of its interpretation: there are still no direct traces of possible organisms.

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