Ever since the Mars rover discovered the extremely rare “tridymite” mineral on Mars in 2016, scientists have not been sure about the mineral’s source. A new study shows that the mineral likely came from a volcanic eruption more than 3 billion years ago.
Tridymite is a type of quartz that forms in high temperature and low pressure environments. This mineral is often associated with Earth’s volcanic activity and is so rare that it was first discovered in Mars’ Gale Crater in 2016 by NASA’s Mars rover. Researchers wondered why Mars had this ultra-rare mineral.
Recently, a new study found that “silica volcanism” from a volcanic eruption more than 3 billion years ago may be responsible for the formation of volcanic tridymite. So far, we’ve had ample evidence of basalt volcanic eruptions on Mars, and new research shows that the volcanic history of Mars may be more complex and interesting than previously thought.
Gale Crater was once a Martian lake, and the underlying magma lingered longer than usual, went through a process called “partial crystallization and partial cooling,” and then contained it in the form of tridymite in a big eruption.
The volcanic ash of silicon spilled into lakes and surrounding rivers. Since water can decompose volcanic ash by natural processes, this scenario may explain why high concentrations of tridymite are found in the same area.