The Mars Curiosity Rover discovered opal gemstones on the red planet, according to research released in December.
The opals were identified in Mars’ Gale Crater by Curiosity’s Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons spectrometer (DAN), and analyzed by a team of researchers who published their work in the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR). In both old and new images from the crater, researchers noted the presence of fractured halos, like rings of light-colored sediment. Tests proved these rocks were opals.
Opals are made up of mostly water and silica, which surprised researchers as Martian ice water is typically abundant at the planet’s poles. The rings of opals were located near the equator of Mars, according to the study. Silica can often be found in geysers and hot springs on Earth, such as those found at Yellowstone National Park.
NEWS 🚨: Curiosity rover has found opal gemstones on Mars that also exist on Earth
Suggesting past widespread water and possible microbial life 🦠 pic.twitter.com/Kr3w0cNOqt
— Latest in space (@latestinspace) January 12, 2023
“Seeing that these fracture networks were so widespread and likely chock-full of opal was incredible,” Travis Gabriel, a research physicist for the U.S. government and former Arizona State University NewSpace Postdoctoral Fellow, said in a statement.
“Given the widespread fracture networks discovered in Gale Crater, it’s reasonable to expect that these potentially habitable subsurface conditions extended to many other regions of Gale Crater as well, and perhaps in other regions of Mars. These environments would have formed long after the ancient lakes in Gale Crater dried up,” he continued. (RELATED: Did Flight Systems Go Down Because Of Solar Storms? Well …)
The discovery suggests Mars may have enough water to support crewed missions to the planet in the future, according to a report from Space. The evidence further supports the theory that the Gale Crater is one of the last places on Mars to have had an abundant water supply.