Almost All Dust On Mars Comes From One Place

Posted: Jul 29 2018, 1:28pm CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Almost All Dust on Mars Comes From One Place
A portion of the Medusae Fossae Formation on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

The dust that covers much of the Mars' surface originates from a massive geological formation near the planet's equator

Mars is the fourth planet from our Sun and is famous for its exquisite reddish appearance. The surface of Mars is very cold and dry and covered in iron oxide rich dust, giving the planet its iconic red color.

Recently, researchers have observed a new fascinating fact about Mars surface and the dust on it. The dust that is plentiful on the Mars surface largely come from a single source and the source is located near the Red Planet's equator. This thousand-kilometer-long geological formation is called Medusae Fossae Formation. The composition of this feature is similar to that of dust in Mars atmosphere.

“Mars wouldn't be nearly this dusty if it wasn't for this one enormous deposit that is gradually eroding over time and polluting the planet, essentially.” Co-author Kevin Lewis from Johns Hopkins University said.

As neighboring planets, Earth and Mars have many things in common. Both have similar rocky composition and structure and both orbit the sun within its circumstellar habitable zone. Even Mars once had water on its surface that likely contributed to the global dust reservoir on the planet.

On Earth, dust is separated from soft rock formations by forces like wind, water, glaciers, volcanoes and meteor impacts, but that’s not the case with Mars. Present-day Mars is geologically inactive and very inhospitable.

"How does Mars make so much dust, because none of these processes are active on Mars?" Lead author of the study Lujendra Ojha said.

To answer this question, researchers looked at the chemical composition of Martian dust. Landers and rovers far apart on the planet showed that dust everywhere on Mars is enriched in sulfur and chlorine. When researchers studied data captured by the spacecraft Mars Odyssey, they were also able to pinpoint its source. They found that Medusae Fossae Formation on Mars has an abundance of sulfur and chlorine. Its ratio also matches the very distinct sulfur-to-chlorine ratio found in Mars dust.

Expert Kevin Lewis says. “It just explains, potentially, one big piece of how Mars got to its current state.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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