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Research says Mars had oxygen-rich atmosphere 4000 million years ago

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Posted June 21, 2013
Mars, photographed by the Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. Credit: NASA

Mars, photographed by the Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. Credit: NASA

Differences between Martian meteorites and rocks examined by a NASA rover can be explained if Mars had an oxygen-rich atmosphere 4000 million years ago—well before the rise of atmospheric oxygen on Earth 2500 million years ago.

Scientists from Oxford University investigated the compositions of Martian meteoritesfound on Earth and data from NASA’s ‘Spirit’ rover that examined surface rocks in the Gusev crater on Mars. The fact that the surface rocks are five times richer in nickel than the meteorites was puzzling and had cast doubt on whether the meteorites are typical volcanic products of the red planet.

‘What we have shown is that both meteorites and surface volcanic rocks are consistent with similar origins in the deep interior of Mars but that the surface rocks come from a more oxygen-rich environment, probably caused by recycling of oxygen-rich materials into the interior,’ said Professor Bernard Wood, of Oxford University’s Department of Earth Sciences, who led the research reported in this week’s Nature.

‘This result is surprising because while the meteorites are geologically ‘young’, around 180 million to 1400 million years old, the Spirit rover was analysing a very old part of Mars, more than 3700 million years old.’

Read more at: Phys.org

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