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'FELSIC materials' find on MARS could rewrite Red Planet's history

More eruptions, more often, required to match feldspar find

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A group of researchers have found evidence of large granite deposits on the surface of Mars, an indication that the Red Planet may be more volcanically active than originally believed.

The research group from the Georgia Institute of Technology said that it has found evidence of volcanic feldspar on the martian surface, an indication that granite could have formed on Mars in the past.

A felsic igneous rock, granite is normally formed on earth as the result of volcanic activity and other tectonic phenomena. The Georgia Tech researchers believe that on Mars, such materials could also have formed as the result of volcanic activity.

This, say researchers, could challenge conventional assumptions about the composition of the surface of Mars and how the planet's crust was formed.

Using data pulled from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the researchers say that they have spotted evidence of felsic materials in multiple locations on Mars. The findings would indicate that granite could be present throughout Mars and suggest that the planet was in fact more geologically active than first thought.

"Rocks dominated by the silicate minerals quartz and feldspar are abundant in Earth’s upper continental crust. Yet felsic rocks have not been widely identified on Mars, a planet that seems to lack plate tectonics and the associated magmatic processes that can produce evolved siliceous melts on Earth," the researchers say in an article published to Nature Geoscience.

"If Mars once had a feldspar-rich crust that crystallized from an early magma ocean such as that on the Moon, erosion, sedimentation and volcanism have erased any clear surface evidence for widespread felsic materials."

The findings also support earlier evidence gathered by the Curiosity rover which found traces of similar felsic materials in a crater on Mars. ®

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