Washington: Scientists have found possible evidence of past water on Mars from the giant impact crater called Endeavour, thanks to the Mars rover Opportunity.
Endeavour is an impact crater 14 miles in diameter, and offers tantalizing clues about the Red Planet’s early formative process, according to the scientists.
Opportunity arrived Aug. 9 at Cape York, on the rim of Endeavour, after a three-year journey of about 13 miles as it detoured to avoid numerous hazards along the way.
Steve Squyres, Cornell’s Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy and principal investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover mission, described Tisdale 2, the first rock Opportunity has examined at the rim of Endeavour during a Sept. 1 news teleconference.
Tisdale 2 is a basaltic rock that has a composition similar to some volcanic rocks, but most striking so far is the large amount of zinc in its chemical makeup, Squyres said.
For rocks on Earth, zinc is an element typically associated with being formed in a place with hydrothermal activity.
“This is a clue ... that we may be dealing with a hydrothermal system here. We may be dealing with a situation where water has percolated or flowed or somehow moved through these rocks – maybe as vapour or maybe as liquid. We don’t know yet,” he said.
It is too early to tell whether the rock’s composition indicates evidence of water on Mars, Squyres said, but the initial observations point to what he expects will be a “long and interesting story about these rocks.”