Early Mars May Have Been A Lot Like Early Earth

A new study published in Nature Geoscience says it has found evidence that the early crust of Mars may have been much like that of ancient Earth.

By Jake Godin | July 15, 2015

The Curiosity rover has been poking around the Gale crater on Mars for a few years now, and it turns out the place may be more similar to Earth than we originally thought. (Video via NASA)

Using rock data gathered by Curiosity, a recent study published in Nature Geoscience found that many of the rocks in the crater had similar chemical makeup to ones found in Earth's crust. 

The crust of a planet is its outermost layer — what you're standing on now. The rock on land, or the continental crust, is typically lighter than what you'd find deeper in the oceans, or the oceanic crust. 

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The paper's international team of authors say they've found evidence of this continental crust on Mars, which is new. A writer at Popular Science explains:

"Scientists thought for a long time that Earth was the only planet with a continental crust, because typically it takes a very long time on a very active planet for the lighter rocks to rise to the surface and form into the chunks that make up the continental crust."

The team used data from a total of 22 Martian rock samples, some of which was gathered using Curiosity's ChemCam — a laser that the rover shoots at rocks to gather reveal chemical makeup. 

The discovery will help with our understanding of not only the history of Mars as a planet, but also the makeup of parts of the planet unexplored by terrestrial rovers such as Curiosity. 

This video includes images from NASAWolfgang Staudt / CC BY 2.0 and Alice Radford / CC BY NC ND 2.0.

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