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Space & Astronomy

New find suggests there was oxygen on Mars

By T.K. Randall
July 31, 2016 · Comment icon 15 comments

Mars was once much wetter than it is today. Image Credit: YouTube / NASA
Manganese found inside rocks on Mars could mean that the Red Planet once had oxygen in its atmosphere.
Rocks are certainly not a rare sight on the surface of Mars, but while most of them might look the same to the untrained eye, some actually harbor important clues about the planet's distant past.

One of these, which was discovered back in 2013 by the Curiosity rover within the formation known as 'Caribou', was found to contain something very unexpected indeed - manganese.

Now following a thorough analysis of the find, scientists have determined that this rock - and others like it - contain so much of this element that it could have only got there if basalt rock had been dissolved in oxygenated water - a process requiring significant quantities of oxygen.
"If we could peer onto Mars millions of years ago, we'd see a very wet world," wrote researcher Nina Lanza. "Yet we didn't think Mars ever had enough oxygen to concentrate manganese – and that's why we thought the data from Caribou must have been an error."

How oyxgen got in to the Martian atmosphere remains unclear however it is possible that ionizing radiation from the sun could have split water molecules in to oxygen and hydrogen.

Because Mars has no magnetic field and only a thin atmosphere the hydrogen atoms, being extremely light, could have simply floated away while the oxygen was absorbed by the rocks.

"This tells us that Mars has evolved very differently than we thought it did," said Lanza.

Source: Christian Science Monitor | Comments (15)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by fightzone 8 years ago
my mistake it is not methane yet but can be converted to methane.   The martian atmosphere is composed of approximately 95.3% carbon dioxide, 2.7% nitrogen, 1.6% argon, 0.13% oxygen, 0.08% carbon monoxide, and trace amounts of water, nitrogen oxide, neon, krypton and xenon. By utilizing simple reactions between martian carbon dioxide and imported hydrogen, the astronauts will be able to produce methane, water, and oxygen. Direct atmospheric extraction of nitrogen and argon will also be possible.  source  
Comment icon #7 Posted by paperdyer 8 years ago
Based on what I've read above, the first step to making Mars truly inhabitable by humans may be to find a way to regenerate the magnet poles.  Then, if we're lucky, find an underground water source and plant lots of trees and other plants.  Simplistic, yes. It could take millions of years to generate enough oxygen, if it would work at all.
Comment icon #8 Posted by third_eye 8 years ago
Maybe in just another 25 years ... ~ Life in Biosphere 2 ~ TED Talks link   Might take another 100 to get things set up and running though ... ~
Comment icon #9 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 8 years ago
Yes, but in negligible amounts. Oxygen makes up just 0.146% of the Martian atmosphere, compared to 21% in Earth's.
Comment icon #10 Posted by fightzone 8 years ago
i mentioned that in the previous post.  the site i went to listed it at .13%
Comment icon #11 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 8 years ago
Is that the post where you corrected your claim that Mars has a methane atmosphere? Sorry, I didn't really pay much attention after such a massive mistake.
Comment icon #12 Posted by fightzone 8 years ago
it was indeed. i dont read about mars frequently. facts get twisted
Comment icon #13 Posted by Sundew 8 years ago
I has always thought the loss of the magnetic field allow in solar radiation, but I had not considered it could have stripped the atmosphere. 
Comment icon #14 Posted by keithisco 8 years ago
Perhaps a little more humility and recognition that not everyone has such an encyclopaedic knowledge and insight into Planetary Dynamics than yourself would have been a better response? Perhaps point out the error and supply links to the reality of the Martian atmosphere would be instructional, and more valuable to people with a yearning to understand and learn. This is not ATS.  
Comment icon #15 Posted by DieChecker 8 years ago
I don't think the magnetic field is necessary to teraform Mars. The magnetic field would prevent air loss, but over tens, or hundreds of thousands of years. On the human generational scale, that is a very long time, and very likely unnecessary. If we could build an atmosphere in say 100 years, we for sure could maintenance the atmosphere enough on our own without a magnetic field.

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