Mars

Boron has been detected on Mars for the first time! After all, the assumption that something is growing or already grown during the past on Mars, isn’t impossible anymore. Obviously, the Red Planet had long-term habitable groundwater.

Curiosity Rover on Mars
The Curiosity Rover detected boron on the surface of Mars

Patric Gasda, one of the researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory said that no prior missions to Mars have found boron. Scientist used the rover’s laser-shooting Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument. The ChemCam fire the laser at a target nearby and elements get excited. When elements excited, they emit the light. Thanks to the light, a scientist could identify that there are boron and other elements.

What this finding tells us?

Boron is an element, produced entirely by cosmic ray spallation and supernovae and it is very water soluble. This is important because it can tell us about the surface and sub-surface water activity on ancient Mars. In Gale crater was the lake and after lake disappeared, the water retreated into the subsurface. Based on that we get this groundwater system. After groundwater disappears, we are left with these calcium sulfate veins with boron in them. How do we know that this groundwater was habitable? First, it was liquid and where we find liquid water on Earth, we tend to find life. Second, we know from many other studies of this type of groundwater that it had to have been warm. So, the presence of boron tells us that it probably wasn’t overly acidic or overly alkaline. This further leads to the conclusion that the regular types of the organism could live there – for example, bacteria.

Gale Crater on Mars
The Gale Crater, where the boron is detected.

As a chemical signature of evaporated water, this is evidence that the planets were once plentiful with water. Earth example of boron presence is Death Valley in California. However, environmental implications of this element found by Curiosity are still open to debate. One is for sure: Mars certainly at one point could have been habitable. This discovery, along with others, helps scientists to extend the timescale of habitability of Mars.
And who knows…With further Mars missions and constant progression with discoveries, maybe one day we’ll even travel to Mars.

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