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Carbonation may have grounded Mars’ atmosphere

Process could have forced Red Planet’s atmospheric carbon dioxide into the dirt

Veins of clay (green) surround both the carbonate (orange) and olivine (blue) in this false-color microscopy image of a sliver of the Lafayette meteorite.

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Mars’ atmosphere — once rich in carbon dioxide — may have moved underground through carbonation.

The process happens on Earth when water, CO2 and silicate minerals such as olivine interact to form carbonate, which is then stored in the planet’s crust.

In a new study, Tim Tomkinson of the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre and colleagues analyzed the minerals in the Lafayette meteorite, which scientists think formed on the Red Planet 1.3 billion years ago and came crashing into Earth 3,000 years ago.

The space rock contained carbonate, which could have formed when the meteorite’s silicate minerals interacted with liquid water, rich in CO2 from the atmosphere, that may have existed on the planet a few billion years ago, the scientists suggest October 22 in Nature Communications.

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