It’s not that it doesn’t exist on Earth. Yes, it does exist, but in tiny amounts. Instead, there is an abundance on the red planet. The mineral from Mars found in Antarctica, jarosite, consists of potassium, sulfate and iron. How does your find affect the remote frozen corner of our planet?
This tan mineral requires water and acid to form. Right now, these conditions are hard to find on the red planet. After the Opportunity Rover first discovered jarosite in 2004, the mineral was found in various locations on the planet. Scientists still don’t know how it was formed in such large quantities there.
Metal in the background
Jarosite is a rare mineral on earth. It occurs in mining waste that is exposed to air and rain. The author of the study is Giovanni Baccolo, geologist at the University of Milan-Bicocca. He and his colleagues never expected to find the mineral in Antarctica, he said.
However, when they pulled a 1,600 meter long ice core from the ground, they found traces of jarosite. They were smaller than grains of sand. And they found her buried deep in the ice.
After examining the particles with an electron microscope, the team concluded that the jarosite had formed in muddy pockets in the ice. This finding suggests that the mineral formed in the same way on Mars. On the red planet, however, jarosite appears in meter-thick deposits. Not like here, a few scattered pimples, explains Megan Elwood Madden. She is a geochemist at the University of Oklahoma and was not involved in the research.
Mars and Antarctica
The mineral from Mars, jarosite found in Antarctica, could have formed there because the planet has infinitely more dust than Antarctica. Jarosite is actually formed from dust, emphasized Baccolo.
“This is just the first step in relating Antarctica’s deep ice to the Martian environment,” he added.