The Hydro-Mars team are studying iron and magnesium-rich clays from hydrothermal seafloor environments around the world, to better understand the nature of ancient clays on Mars.
Submarine hydrothermal sites on Earth are known for their black smokers, jets of super-heated fluids loaded with metals. Clays forming in these environments are similar to ancient Martian clays.
Museum scientists on the Hydro-Mars team are comparing infrared spectra of clays from Earth and Mars, to investigate the similarities of their spectral features.
They are also comparing the formation temperatures of submarine clays on Earth with their Martian counterparts. This will reveal more about the environment on Mars where the clays formed.
Understanding the environmental conditions during the formation of these materials is central to revealing Mars’ geology and climate history, and the habitability of its past environments.
The Hydro-Mars team have found that iron and magnesium exchange for each other in submarine clays, and that mixed-layer clays of intermediate composition and structure are very abundant.
The research suggests:
Dr Javier Cuadros
Economic and Environmental Earth Sciences Division
Natural History Museum
+44 (0)20 7942 5543
The Hydro-Mars project is funded by the European Commission, as an Intra-European Marie Curie Fellowship.