Mars rover Opportunity has found a pronounced mineral veins, as it turned out plaster, which were formed with the participation of water. Their analysis will deepen our understanding of the environmental history of Mars.
"We have received satisfactory evidence that water flowed through underground fractures in the rock," - said Steve Squires of Cornell University in Ithaca, scientific director of the project Opportunity.
Dimensions veins, which investigated the rover Opportunity, do not exceed the width of the human thumb (2.1 centimeters) in length and 40-50 centimeters
The spectrometer found a large amount of calcium and sulfur, in the proportion indicating a fairly pure calcium sulfate.
Calcium sulfate can exist in many forms, depending on how much water is contained in the mineral crystal structure. Obtained with the camera information, suggesting that it detected a hydrated calcium sulfate or gypsum. On Earth, this material is used to make drywall and plaster. However, previous observations have shown the presence of gypsum on Mars.
"It remains a mystery as gypsum dunes have formed in the north of Mars" - said the member of the scientific team Opportunity, Benton Clark.
Gypsum or another form of calcium sulfate, likely formed from water, soluble calcium out of volcanic rock. Calcium is mixed with sulfur that was either leached from the rocks appeared in the form of volcanic gas and settled in the form of calcium sulfate in an underground fault that later became exposed surface.
To form such a high-concentration calcium sulfate requires a neutral water and not highly acidic. This, the present discovery is different from all previous ones.
"For his education required a different type of water, more friendly to a wide range of living organisms," - said Clark.
Initially, Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, have been calculated on a three-month mission, which ended in April 2004. Despite this, both rovers have continued to function for many years, making important discoveries about the presence of water on Mars, suggesting the presence of microscopic life forms. Although Spirit did not respond to the signals, Opportunity continues to conduct research activities.
November 26 this year, NASA launched the next-generation Mars rover, Curiosity, which will arrive at Gale Crater in August 2012.
Original: Jpl nasa