Jarosite on Earth: Rare Martian Mineral Found In Antarctica


Jarosite, a mineral from mars scarcely seen on earth has been unearthed from Antarctic ice. According to Science Magazine, the discovery was made after drilling deep into the Antarctic ice. 

The name of the mineral is “jarosite”, it is a sulfate of potassium and iron. It can be formed by both water and acidic conditions. These conditions are rarely found on mars, according to NASA. Jarosite was first discovered on Mars in 2004 by a rover named “opportunity”. After that discovery, it was found in several other locations on Mars. 


(Photo : Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com)

Why Is Jarosite Common On Mars?

Scientists are yet to determine why it is so common on the red planet. But one hypothesis believes that when the planet was covered with ice millennials ago, sulfate, iron, and potassium might have been trapped in the form of dust. “Everything in Mars is covered by dust” Giovanni Baccolo, the author of the study says. But another inconclusive fact about the theory is that dust and ice have never been known to chemically react to form minerals. Even though the ice provided a suitable environment for the transformation of dust to the mineral.

In a paper published in Nature Communications, the scientists mentioned that they hope to prove this theory from the particles of jarosite that has been discovered in Antarctica’s ice. Finding the mineral in Antarctica was unexpected for Baccolo and his team. Science reported that jarosite is rare, and on earth, it occurs in mining waste that has been exposed to rain and air. The team found particles of the mineral buried in a 1,620 meters ice core. The amounts they found were minute, smaller than sand grains. 

ALSO READNASA Issues Two Updates Guidelines To Avoid Contamination of The Moon and Mars by Humans 

What This Discovery Means

The particles were examined with an electron microscope, and it was deduced that the mineral formed in pockets within the ice. This can support the theory that the jarosite on mars was formed in the same way. According to Megan Elwood Madden, a geochemist, on mars, the mineral forms in “meters-thick deposits” not in scattered grains. 

The minerals are able to form in thick deposits on mars because the planet is a lot dustier than Antarctica. Therefore there are more raw materials that can form jarosite. Baccolo added that this was a step in connecting the environment on mars to Antarctica. 


(Photo : Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com)


Jarosite is a mineral that is often found in sulfate and iron-rich environment. Other groups of jarosite minerals include silver, lead, sodium, and ammonium amongst others. Other places jarosite can be found are in mining and ore processing wastes. In these places, they can act as sinks for other toxic elements like lead and arsenic. They break down to release metals like iron, potassium as well as hydrogen ions and sulfate. This can be a source of acid in stream systems. They are used in hydrometallurgy to control impurities. 

More About Jarosite

The name jarosite was derived from a Spanish name of a yellow flower of the genus Cistus. The color of this flower and that of the mineral almost matches. The mineral was described for the first time in 1852 by August Breithaupt. Jarosite is yellow to yellowish-brown in color. It is brittle, hard, and has a crystal structure. It appears translucent and sometimes opaque. 

RELATED ARTICLENASA Clarifies “Human Bone” Photo Taken on Mars 

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