Glass (green), olivine (red), and pyroxene (blue) speckle this Alga Crater central peak. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/University of Arizona

Glass (green), olivine (red), and pyroxene (blue) speckle this Alga Crater central peak. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/University of Arizona

Good morning and welcome, Earthlings!

This week, I'd like to talk about the mystery of glass minerals on Mars.

What are glass minerals?

Glass minerals are considered melted silicate minerals through some extreme temperature and pressure that the crystal form has become unstable. An example we have on Earth is obsidian, or volcanic minerals that rapidly cool too fast to form an actual crystal structure! We found pieces of these minerals in Martian meteorites, but often assumed the minerals were melted due to the meteorite's journey through our Earth's atmosphere. And then our Orbiters and Rovers detected some! Surprise!

What does this mean? 

Since these minerals form under some form of extreme change, it would imply active volcanism would be the culprit. Minerals from the subsurface would be subjected into the lava flows and melt. This also means that they could potentially encase and transport microbial life!

What now?

Laboratories all over the world are making their own glasses or going out to volcanic fields to collect glass samples and test the mineral signatures. In doing so, this will help current and future remote sensing orbiters to detect the locations of these types of glasses! So far, over 20 have been identified!

You can read more from Sky & Telescope's article from 2015: 

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/the-glint-of-martian-glass-0610201523/

Thank you for reading and next week- Earth as a Space Lab Part II