Hydrogen isotopic compositions of Martian volatile reservoirs (left diagram): near-surface crustal water (green square) and primordial water in the mantle (red triangle). These hydrogen isotopic compositions were obtained from tiny (<20 ?m) melt inclusions (pointed by red arrows) hosted by olivines in martian basaltic meteorites, and expressed as permillage difference (?D) relative to the reference Earth’s ocean water; ?D = [(D/H)sample/(D/H)reference-1] x 1000. Most terrestrial water has relatively limited ?D values, which overlap with the martian primordial water and bulk-chondrites but are distinct from comets and the martian atmosphere and crustal water. The right figure is an electron microprobe image (called back-scattered electron or compositional image); brighter areas indicate denser (i.e., richer in heavy elements such as iron) than darker areas.

Meteorite samples provide definitive evidence of water and rock types on Mars

November 19, 2012

Researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Lunar Planetary Institute, and Carnegie Institute of Washington report on geochemical studies that help towards settling the controversy that surrounds the origin, abundance, and history of water on Mars.

The abundance and origin of water on Mars underpins a number of planetary science hypotheses including crust and mantle dynamics, and even the existence of life. Researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology, NASA, the Lunar Planetary Institute, and the Carnegie Institute of Washington analyse the geochemical and isotopic composition of two different meteorites and conclude definitively that the mantle is dry and provide the first evidence of assimilation of old Martian crust into the mantle.

Despite its crucial role in biological and geological processes information about water on Mars is still controversial. In addition previous geochemical studies of Martian basalts (shergottites) have raised unsettled questions over the sources of the parental magmas.

The researchers studied two meteorites that provide different samples from the Martian mantle and crust. “There are several competing theories that account for the diverse isotopic and geochemical compositions of Martian meteorites,” said Tomohiro Usui, a former NASA/ LPI postdoctoral fellow who led the research. “Until this investigation there was no direct evidence that primitive Martian lavas contained material from the surface of Mars”.

The researchers also report direct evidence that the dry Martian mantle retains a primordial ratio of hydrogen and its heavier isotope deuterium that is similar to the ratio in water on Earth. This further implies that terrestrial planets including Earth have similar water sources, which are chondritic meteorites, and not comets.

Read more: Meteorite samples provide definitive evidence of water and rock types on Mars — phys.org.

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