Earth is home to nearly 6,000 distinct minerals. How many does Mars have?
Our home planet, Earth, boasts a vast array of minerals. But does our neighboring red planet, Mars, share the same mineral wealth? Research indicates that Mars might be lagging behind.
Earth is home to nearly 6,000 distinct minerals. Mars, despite its similarities with our planet, has only recorded 161 minerals in over five decades of exploration. A surprising disparity for two planets with such interconnected beginnings.
Recent studies shed light on this mineral discrepancy. The genesis? Mars’s limited avenues for mineral formation. Even though both planets embarked on parallel paths of mineral evolution, Mars’s journey diverged somewhere along the way.
Insights from Hazen’s Research
Delving into Earth’s mineral evolution, a systematic study by Hazen and team examined all 161 Martian minerals unveiled during the past 50 years. In contrast to Earth’s 57 recognized mineral-forming mechanisms, Mars displays only 20.
In their infancy, both Earth and Mars saw minerals emerging from cooling magma. Hydrothermal activities further diversified the mineral spectrum on both planets. Yet, Earth’s minerals experienced added expansion phases billions of years ago, driven by plate tectonics and the emergence of life. These evolutionary leaps are absent from Mars’s history.
While many mineral phases on Mars remain undiscovered, the gap between Martian and Earth’s mineral counts remains vast. The red planet’s mineral diversity, as researchers emphasize, likely trails Earth’s by a significant margin. For those seeking an in-depth exploration, the findings are available in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.
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