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Mars crater is ‘chock full’ of gemstones – and may hide a world-changing secret

A CRATER on the surface of Mars has given scientists new hope that there could be water on the Red Planet.

The Martian crater may be rife with opal gemstones, which are often found in jewellery and museums here on Earth.


This crater could actually be an ancient dried-up lake bedCredit: Malin Space Science Systems/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Opal crystals are essentially formed using two key ingredients: silica from sandstone and water.

It means the crater could actually be an ancient dried-up lake bed, fresh data from Nasa’s Mars Curiosity rover suggests.

The data improves the chances of finding evidence of microbial life that may have previously lived on Mars, according to a separate study by the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Researchers examining the Curiosity rover’s archive of images now think there are other areas of Mars that are rich in water-based opal gemstones.

These areas have “halos” of light-coloured rock, which scientists believe to be areas rich in opal.

And they appear all over the 96-mile-wide (154km-wide) Gale Crater, which Curiosity has explored since its mission began in 2021.

“Seeing that these fracture networks were so widespread and likely chock-full of opal was incredible,” lead study author Travis Gabriel, a research physicist at the U.S. Geological Survey, said.

“Given the widespread fracture networks discovered in Gale Crater, it’s reasonable to expect that these potentially habitable subsurface conditions extended to many other regions of Gale Crater as well, and perhaps in other regions of Mars.

“These environments would have formed long after the ancient lakes in Gale Crater dried up.”

The realisation opens up the possibility that life could have been on Mars for longer than previously thought.

Researchers said that it is possible that Mars showed signs of life up until 2.9billion years ago – with the Red Planet thought to be around 4.6billion years old.

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