U.S. Water News Online
PASADENA, Calif. -- The tiny, round ``blueberries'' found
on Mars by NASA's Opportunity rover strongly support the theory that
water once drenched the vast Meridiani Planum region the six-wheeled
robot has been exploring, scientists said.
Analysis showed that the spheres are mostly hematite, which is
typically formed in water and which a satellite in orbit around Mars
has detected widely in the Oklahoma-sized area, science team members
Andrew Knoll and Daniel Rodionov told a Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The ``blueberries'' studied so far were found at an outcropping of
rock in the tiny crater in which Opportunity landed in January. The
recent discovery about their composition has made scientists eager to
send the rover out of the crater to see what lies beyond on the
``The hypothesis at this point is that we're going to find that
those plains are just littered with blueberries,'' said Knoll, of
The finding was made at ``Berry Bowl,'' a depression where enough
of the tiny spheres collected to allow the rover's Mossbauer
spectrometer to distinguish the composition of the so-called berries
from the background rock.
``This is the fingerprint of a hematite,'' said Rodionov, a
graduate student from the University of Mainz in Germany and a member
of the team running the Mossbauer, a device that identifies
iron-bearing minerals such as hematite.
NASA announced earlier this month that geologic data from the
Opportunity site indicated that water once percolated through the
ground there and that those conditions would have been hospitable to
life, although it remains unknown whether life ever did develop
The ``blueberries'' -- which are actually gray -- are believed to
be mineral ``concretions'' that form within rocks due to water action
and then fall out onto the Martian surface as rock weathers away.
Opportunity also found ``blueberries'' when it bored into rocks in
the outcropping that have occupied its time since landing there in
If the plains are covered with ``blueberries'' it would indicate
that the rocks in which they formed had also weathered away on a vast
scale, Knoll said.
Scientists have not been able to say if there was a body of
surface water such as a lake or ocean.
Knoll noted it was possible that the sedimentary rock was not laid
down in water, and that the minerals were put in place by water that
later flowed through the ground over a long period of time rather
than by ``a big thickness of liquid water on top of it.''
NASA sent Opportunity and the twin rover Spirit on their $820
million mission to explore the water history of the Red Planet.
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