Atmospheric oxygen could have existed in prehistoric Mars, says NASA

Image courtesy:

According to scientists at NASA, discovery of high levels of manganese oxides in Martian rocks suggests that our red planetary neighbor may have had housed Earth like conditions in the past.

As per the research by the Curiosity Rover of NASA, detection of manganese oxides shed light on the previous existence of atmospheric oxygen in Mars.

The fresh hint of atmospheric oxygen on the planet adds to Curiosity’s previous findings – such evidences of ancient lakes and evidences relating to the existence of Earth like livable conditions on the red planet in prehistoric era.

“The only ways on Earth that we know how to make these manganese materials involve atmospheric oxygen or microbes,” PTI quoted Nina Lanza, a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“Now we’re seeing manganese-oxides on Mars and wondering how the heck these could have formed,” Lanza added.

Curiosity Rover which is currently engaged in research activities on Mars, used an instrument called – ChemCam – mounted atop to ‘zap’ the Martian rocks to trace the chemical ingredients. ChemCam was developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Image courtesy:
Image courtesy:

In less than four years since landing on Mars, ChemCam has analysed roughly 1,500 rock and soil samples.

While scientists rules out the roles in microbes for the existence of these oxides, science suggest that such high levels of manganese oxides cannot form sans huge deposits of water and ‘strong oxidizing conditions’.

“Here on Earth, (during evolutionary process) we had lots of water but no widespread deposits of manganese oxides until after the oxygen levels in our atmosphere rose due to photosynthesising microbes,” she went on say.

In Earth’s geological history, formation of high concentrations of Manganese oxides was important sign of shift in atmospheric composition, that is, from relatively low atmospheric oxygen levels to oxygen rich atmosphere, as we see now.

Also read:

After Pluto, NASA prepares for a scary rendezvous with Jupiter