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Clay Minerals on Mars May Have Formed in Primordial Steam Bath

7 Dec 2017, 22:28 UTC
Clay Minerals on Mars May Have Formed in Primordial Steam Bath
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Planetary scientists from Brown University have proposed a new scenario for the formation of ancient clay minerals on Mars that, if shown to be true, could rewrite the early history of the red planet.There are thousands of ancient phyllosilicate outcrops on the Martian surface. Phyllosilicates, or clays, are formed by the interaction of water with volcanic rock, leading many scientists to conclude that there must have been sustained surface water, groundwater or active hydrothermal systems at some point in Martian history. But the new research, published in the journal Nature, suggests that the clays may have formed during the creation of the Martian crust itself, long before any water flowed on the planet.Backed by lab experiments and computer models, the researchers lay out how the scenario would have worked. In the very early solar system, Mars and other rocky planets are thought to have been covered by oceans of molten magma. As the Mars magma ocean began to cool and solidify, water and other dissolved volatiles would be outgassed to the surface, forming a thick, steamy atmosphere surrounding the planet. The moisture and heat from that high-pressure steam bath would have converted vast swaths of the newly solidified surface to ...

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