February 21, 2004 11:45
Martian Spherical Fossils?
On Sol 15, Opportunity had it's first opportunity to image "Stone
Mountain" with the onboard Microscopic Imager. The results were
stunning. Not only did the spheriods exist on the surrounding landscape...they
were embedded in the outcrop of ancient Martian bedrock!
Note: All images have been scaled down
for viewing purposes. To see full resolution, please open image in new
At first glance, it is quite noticable the layered cavities of
"Stone Mountain" are filled with embedded spheroids.
The cause of this phenomenon is unknown, many have educated guesses,
including JPL...substractive wind erosion is the top candidate.
If this is so...then it would be possible for the spheres to be
Martian fossils. They are being sandblasted away from the bedrock
like paleontologists excavate dinosaur bones from limestone.
Close up showing the interior of a sphere. This sphere reminds
one of a fossilized seed, broken in half and exposing the meat
inside the shell. What is unusual about this particular spheriod,
and possibly the most exciting, was it appeared to be "attached"
to the bedrock itself!
Attaching "membrane" mechanism between sphere and bedrock.
In the raw image 1M129515692EFF0312P2939M2M1.JPG,
we find two distinctive, and fundamental charateristics of the bedrock,
and the spheriods embedded within it. In the above enhancement, the
bedrock exhibits a 'folded' quality, with a bulbous texture on the edges.
In this raw image, the Microscopic Imager has provided unprecedented
clarity of a Martian rock, or is it? At first a relationship between
the rock and sphere is not clear, but when looking closer a possible
connection is discovered.
Labeled, showing the possible connecting points.
In this enhancement, the top rear of the sphere appears to be attached
by 'cords.' It is possible this is an optical illustion, and the
surface of the rock behind the sphere has been pitted by eons of
This is the best evidence showing the connection between stone
and sphere. The larger conical 'stem' originates from the side of
the sphere, the smaller, veinous attachment also appears to originate
from the same location.
But, by far the most unusual and bizarre aspect of the spheriod
is the apparent marking on the lower right hemisphere. What this
is I have no idea. Given the high quality of the image, I doubt
it is an image anomaly...it can be seen in the original, as well
as this enhanced close up.
Today - February 9, 2004.
The first outcrop rock Opportunity examined up close is finely-layered,
buff-colored and in the process of being eroded by windblown sand. "Embedded
in it like blueberries in a muffin are these little spherical grains,"
said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal
investigator for the rovers' scientific instruments. Microscopic images
show the gray spheres in various stages of being released from the rock.
"This is wild looking stuff," Squyres said. "The rock
is being eroded away and these spherical grains are dropping out."
The spheres may have formed when molten rock was sprayed into the air
by a volcano or a meteor impact. Or, they may be concretions, or accumulated
material, formed by minerals coming out of solution as water diffused
through rock, he said.
The main task for both rovers in coming weeks and months is to explore
the areas around their landing sites for evidence in rocks and soils
about whether those areas ever had environments that were watery and
possibly suitable for sustaining life.
Very interesting article at Stardate.org
discussing rock-eating microbes.
to Mars Home
© Bryan Butcher, 2004
Context Images courtesy NASA/JPL