Monday, September 17, 2012

Cosmic Rosetta Stones?

"Mt. Sharp" in Gale Crater - Mars
Curiosity Rover is at a location on the planet Mars that has recorded a billion years or so of Martian history.

If you think about it, the location has recorded early solar system history, and it promises to tell us a lot about what happened, not only to Mars, but to our whole solar system.

Like the Rosetta Stone did to help with ancient human languages years ago here on the Earth, this may help us interpret some of the various "languages" or messages in the geological record throughout the solar system.

The Mars Journal provides peer reviewed papers for those interested in detailed discussions of Martian geology.

Years ago the Opportunity Rover discovered what NASA folk nicknamed "blueberries", which were ball-bearing shaped objects made of hematite, an iron oxide.

It was originally thought that those spheres of hematite here on Earth, and by extrapolation those on Mars, were chemically produced, not organically produced.

However, and to the contrary, new research of similar hematite spheres here on Earth has found that those here on Earth were formed by microbes:
Spherical iron-oxide concretions - dubbed "blueberries" - were first found on the Red Planet in 2004 by an earlier NASA robotic probe - Opportunity Rover - providing some of the first evidence for liquid water on Mars.

Earth-based analogues for these "blueberries" are found in the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone near the Colorado River, Utah, where the concretions range in size from small marbles to cannonballs and consist of a hard shell of iron oxide surrounding a softer sandy interior.

Previous theories suggested these concretions were formed by simple chemical reactions without the help of life. However, new UWA research shows clear evidence that microbes were essential in their formation.

This raises the possibility that Martian "blueberries" may not only reveal that water was present on Mars - but life too.

(Phys Org). This may also hold true for the new type of "blueberries" found in Endeavour Crater very recently, found also by the Opportunity Rover:

NASA's long-lived rover Opportunity has returned an image of the Martian surface that is puzzling researchers.

Spherical objects concentrated at an outcrop called Kirkwood on the western rim of Endeavour Crater differ in several ways from iron-rich spherules nicknamed "blueberries" the rover found at its landing site in early 2004.

"This is one of the most extraordinary pictures from the whole mission," said Opportunity's principal investigator, Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "Kirkwood is chock full of a dense accumulation of these small spherical objects. Of course, we immediately thought of the blueberries, but this is something different. We never have seen such a dense accumulation of spherules in a rock outcrop on Mars."

(Mystery Spheres on Mars, NASA). The spherical objects at Endeavour are not of the same composition as those found in 2004 shortly after Opportunity landed.

These discoveries lend some credence to the hypothesis of some NASA scientists that some microbes found in meteorites on Earth, whose descendants may be alive today, originally came from ancient Mars (A Structure RE: The Corruption of Memes, quoting Journal of Cosmology).

The exploration of space is never boring, especially when contemplating the full impact of the Tenets of Ecocosmology.