Evidence of Oxygen on the “Rusty” Planet

mars-planet Astronomers have speculated that the 4th planet from the sun once possessed an atmosphere containing oxygen. After all, Mars is red in color due to the oxidation of iron to form iron oxide (rust) likely brought on by oxygen gas. Recently, Nasa’s Spirit Rover collected another piece of strong evidence to back up this theory.

By comparing rocks collected by the Spirit Rover with Martian meteorites that were thrown into space via large collision or volcanic eruptions, scientists have made a strong case to support the presence of an oxygen rich atmosphere on Mars. The roughly 3.7 billion year old rocks collected by the rover exhibit hallmark compositions indicating that around 4 billion years ago oxygen gas did exist in abundance in the atmosphere. However, the composition of the meteorites, about three times younger, do not show hallmark compositions of an oxygen rich atmosphere. This can only mean one thing. Either life thrived and produced oxygen, or oxygen was produced via chemical reaction on the red planet about 4 billion years ago.

Read the full article in the June 2013 journal of Nature.

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