A drilled hole with tridymite powder on Mars

Mysterious mineral on Mars was spat out by an explosive eruption 3 billion years ago

Silver-colored dust drilled from a rock by NASA’s Curiosity rover on July 30, 2015. Analysis of the dust revealed it contained the mineral tridymite, which was very unexpected. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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A mysterious Martian mineral that has perplexed scientists since its discovery seven years ago may have been spat out during an unusual volcanic eruption, researchers have revealed. The mineral, which is normally only found on Earth, was likely formed on the Red Planet more than 3 billion years ago. 

NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered the mineral inside a rock at the heart of the 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale crater on July 30, 2015. The rover drilled a small hole into the rock and extracted a silver-colored dust sample. Curiosity’s onboard X-ray diffraction laboratory analyzed the dust and detected tridymite — a rare type of quartz made entirely of silicon dioxide, or silica, that is formed by certain types of volcanic activity. 

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