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Recent rover discovery may confirm liquid water on Mars

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 9th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

If confirmed, the latest discovery from the Mars rover Opportunity would be the most unambiguous signal of water activity ever found on Mars by this mission. Slivers of a bright material, beamed to Earth from the rover's camera suggest that the material may in fact be gypsum, or calcium sulphate.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - After slow progress over the span of nearly eight years, the rover is still delivering remarkable science.

Lead scientist Steve Squyres said the find was "so cool . To me, this is the single most powerful piece of evidence for liquid water at Mars that has been discovered by the Opportunity rover," the Cornell University researcher said.

"We have found sulphates before. Those sulphates were formed somewhere - we don't know where.

"They've been moved around by the wind, they've been mixed in with other materials - it's a big, jumbled-up, fascinating mess.

"This stuff formed right here. There was a fracture in the rock, water flowed through it, gypsum was precipitated from the water. End of story. There's no ambiguity."

Squyres was updating on the rover mission at the 2011 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, the largest annual gathering of Earth and planetary scientists.

Opportunity landed on Mars back on January 25, 2004, with the expectation that it would complete at least three months of operations.

The robot has since exceeded all expectations and continues to operate despite some worn mechanisms and instrument glitches.

Opportunity is currently investigating a raised piece of ground, referred to as Cape York where it has found two fascinating new rocks.

One is the contested gypsum, taking the form of a narrow vein about 1-2 centimeters wide and about 40-50 centimeters in length.

All the indications are that this vein is relatively pure hydrated calcium sulphate. Further analysis is required to put all further doubts out of the minds of researchers.

The other new rock of note found by Opportunity is nicknamed "Tisdale". It has a zinc concentration higher than anything previously seen by Opportunity. The concentration is so high in fact that it approaches levels seen in commercial zinc ores here on Earth.

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