AS every resident knows, Watchet is simply out of this world – and there’s now the science to prove it.

A team from the University of Leicester and the Open University, working on a complex study of the red planet, have found that a type of rock found on Mars bears remarkable similarity to the geology of Watchet in West Somerset.

Mudstones found in the Gale Crater are close to the composition of rocks in Watchet and point to the likelihood of water once present on the planet.

The discovery has delighted local tourism chiefs who say that it’s yet another reason to visit the ancient port – and the wider area.

“We’ve always known that Watchet and West Somerset are special with a history spanning millennia. We have some fascinating geology and it’s a well-known spot for fossil-hunting,” said Cllr Karen Mills, West Somerset Council’s lead member for tourism.

“This discovery is wonderful – it’s amazing to think that we have something in common with a mysterious planet 225 million kilometres away.

“But while we would welcome people to come and discover Watchet and its history, we don’t want them taking our rocks home with them wholesale as souvenirs!”

The report suggests that Watchet Bay is what they describe as a 'terrestrial analogue', a site with assumed past or present geological, environmental or biological conditions of a celestial body such as the moon or Mars.

The research, by Mars Science Laboratory Participating Scientists at The Open University and the University of Leicester, used the Mars Curiosity rover to explore Yellowknife Bay in Gale Crater on Mars, examining the mineralogy of veins that were paths for groundwater in mudstones.

The study suggests that the veins formed as the sediments from the ancient lake were buried, heated to about 50 degrees Celsius and corroded.

Professor John Bridges from the University of Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy said: “The taste of this Martian groundwater would be rather unpleasant, with about 20 times the content of sulphate and sodium than bottled mineral water for instance!"

For those interested in the research findings more details can be found at