Mars meteorites analyzed by scientists have given evidence that the Red Planet may well have been once covered with water. A mineral found in the meteorites, which had been considered proof of a dry ancient Red Planet, have been found to originally harbor hydrogen. Scientists think that this means there could have been more water on Mars at one stage, possibly even covering the entire planet in oceans.
Merrillite, the mineral found in a meteorite from Red Planet, is regarded as an indicator of dry environments. However, the new study suggests that some of the merrillite may actually have been converted from a "wet" mineral called whitlockite. The conversion is thought to be caused by the asteroid impacts that blasted the Red Planet rocks toward Earth.
To test the theory about the original composition of Martian meteorite, the international research team at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, created a synthetic version of the hydrogen-containing whitlockite. To simulate the condition of ejecting meteorites from the planet, they utilized shock-compression experiments on whitlockite samples. The researchers then studied their microscopic makeup with top-of-the-line X-ray machinery, the Mirror Online reports.
Results of the experiment show that whitlockite can become dehydrated from such shocks. This cause the once wet mineral to turn into a dry merrillite. Study co-lead Professor Oliver Tschauner from UNLV explains that even if a part of merrillite had been whitlockite before, this is enough to change the water budget of Mars dramatically.
According to Space, what adds to the intrigue in the study of Martian meteorites is that the hydrogen-containing whitlockite is water-soluble and contains phosphorus. This means that the planet had one of the key building blocks for life on Earth. Researchers are now confronted with the question that if there was available phosphorus in an environment that had once held water, would that not enable a potential for the generation of life on Mars?