Sunday , January 17 2021

Two Scottish islands have Mars-like soil: geologists

Scotland's geologists say two rural, mountainous islands have soil corresponding to that of Mars.

Using open-source data from NASA's Mars Rover's curiosity, geologists were able to compare soil samples from the red planet with more than 1,500 Scottish soil samples. They found that the Martian soil is approaching two Scottish islands: Skye and Mull.

Skye and Mull are quite mountainous islands on the west coast of Scotland. Skye is a popular tourist destination and is featured in several movies, including Prometheus, The BFG and Transformers: The Last Knight.

Benjamin Butler, a digital miner at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, said the results were meaningful due to the similarities between the islands and Mars.

"The reason they stand out is that the soils of Skye and Mull consist of similar rocks to the rocks found on Mars, so in this sense we would expect to find these similar soils in these ancient volcanic environments," he said .

All three soil samples are rich in basaltic rock minerals that are common on Earth and Mars, but this is their interaction with water in time, making these three areas unique, Butler says.

Butler hopes the discovery will allow NASA scientists to more easily explore Martian soil and understand if it is capable of supporting microbial life, because further testing of Earth's soil can now be made.

"It just opens a lot of doors to help understand the ancient environments of Mars," he said.

The Rove of Curiosity landed on Mars in August 2012 in order to assess the planet's geology and determine whether it was ever capable of maintaining microbial life.

Butler thanked NASA for the Curious Soil data to be publicly available.

"Things should be freely available to others to study, because without the evidence, this combination would not have been possible," he said. "This is a timely example of how unexpected findings can occur when you share the data openly."

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