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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A theory that water once ran across the surface of Mars has been dealt a blow by a University of Tennessee-Knoxville geologist in the current issue of Nature magazine.

Dr. Hap McSween says meteorites from Mars contain minerals which some scientists believe could have been formed only if water had existed there.

No other explanation for the minerals had been theorized, he says.

McSween and Dr. Ralph Harvey of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, have completed a new study that shows the minerals could have been formed without water.

An asteroid or some other object could have struck the waterless planet, creating temperatures of more than 1,200 degrees, McSween said.

The heat from the impact would have cooled quickly, creating conditions where the minerals could have formed inside Martian rocks, he said.

“We’re not saying there was never water in Mars,” McSween said. “There is other evidence of water on Mars, such as dried up riverbeds.

“But now we have an alternate interpretation of how these minerals were formed, and it could have occurred without the existence of water.”

Contact: Dr. Hap McSween (423-974-2366)