NASA's Curiosity Rover has found higher concentrations of silica at some areas in Mars. NASA claims that this could help unravel how water formed, moved and disappeared from the planet.

"These high-silica compositions are a puzzle. You can boost the concentration of silica either by leaching away other ingredients while leaving the silica behind, or by bringing in silica from somewhere else," Albert Yen, a Curiosity science team member at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a press release. "Either of those processes involve water. If we can determine which happened, we'll learn more about other conditions in those ancient wet environments."

NASA said that silica, a rock-forming chemical combining the elements silicon and oxygen, commonly seen on Earth, makes up nine-tenths of the composition of some of the rocks. Acidic water carries other ingredients away but leaves silica behind while alkaline or neutral water could bring in dissolved silica that would be deposited from the solution, the agency added.

Some silica at one rock Curiosity drilled, called Buckskin, is in a mineral named tridymite, rare on Earth and never seen before on Mars, the statement said. The mineral is found in volcanic deposits with high silica, which may be evidence for magmatic evolution on Mars.

Furthermore, the Rover found a pattern of high silica in pale zones along fractures in the bedrock, associating the silica enrichment there to alteration caused by fluids that flowed through the fractures and seeped into bedrock.

Jens Frydenvang, an astro-geologist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, explained that no one has a full understanding of what the discovery means so far. Frydenvang noted that environments with silica require some kind of water activity, environments that can support microbial life.

Rover operations in Mars placed emphasis on gathering clues about silica. NASA is still in the process of determining possible explanations of the findings, whether these came from a volcanic source or another origin.

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