Next Sunday (15), the Chinese rover Zhurong completes one year on Mars, where it has been using its scientific instruments to investigate the planet’s soil, especially the surroundings and interior of an impact crater known as Utopia Planitia.
And it was in this region that he made a discovery that changes everything researchers imagined about the existence of water on the Red Planet.
An article published on Wednesday (11) in the magazine Science Advances describes the study carried out by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with the participation of a scientist from the University of Copenhagen, which is the result of analyzes based on the data captured by the rover.
This study points to evidence that water was present on Mars more recently than previously thought.
Previous research suggests that parts of the Martian surface were covered in water until approximately 3 billion years ago. The time since water dried up on Mars, turning the planet into the arid, icy desert it is today, is known as the Amazon period.
“The most significant and innovative thing is that we found hydrated minerals at the landing site [do rover] that sits in the young Amazonian terrain, and these hydrated minerals are indicators for aquatic activities, such as groundwater,” said lead author Yang Liu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Space Climate Key Laboratory and Center of Excellence. in Comparative Planetology.
Rocks analyzed by the Chinese rover Zhurong give evidence of more recent wet activity on Mars
Zhurong has already completed its initial mission of 90 suns (Martian days), but continues its path south of its landing site, collecting data as it moves. He uses his two spectrometers to analyze rocks, which he photographs with his microimaging camera and “explodes” them with a laser, creating “smoke” that is also analyzed.
The researchers compared the signatures found in rocks on Mars by the rover with rocks on Earth, finding that some are hydrated rather than dry minerals. They also found cases of layers of duricrusta geological formation that would have required a large amount of water emerging from the surface or coming from a large amount of melting ice.
Although no conclusion has been reached as to how much longer water resisted on the planet, given this information, scientists are certain that the Amazon period arrived much later than previously believed.
This also reinforces the idea that Mars went through interspersed cycles of wet/heat and dry/cold, rather than lasting and drastic climate change. “These climate ebbs and flows could have been the result of active volcanoes or impacts from other celestial objects,” Yang said.
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