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Mars Exploration Rover Closeup Look at Martian Soil.

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Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.
Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity: Image credit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/mer2004/rover-images/feb-04-2004/ mib_color1_quasinatural-med.jpg.

NASA's Opportunity rover took a close look at the Martian soil near its landing site yesterday with its microscope, and controllers released the first colour images today. What's unusual about the soil is just how many spherical-shaped particles there are. There are only a few processes which can create this shape of particles, such as the gentle rolling at the bottom of an ocean. It's possible for a Volcano or asteroid impact to create spherical particles; globs of lava can freeze in mid-air as they're ejected. The largest pebble in this image is approximately 3 mm across.

This magnified look at the martian soil near the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity's landing site, Meridiani Planum, shows coarse grains sprinkled over a fine layer of sand. The image was captured by the rover's microscopic imager on the 10th day, or sol, of its mission and roughly approximates the color a human eye would see. scientists are intrigued by the perfectly round pebbles, which most likely were formed by one of two geologic processes. The first, accretion, is the same mechanism by which pearls take shape in oysters: concentric layers of material build up around a "seed." The seed, in this case, may be either waterborne particles or volcanic ash. In the second process, droplets of material are sprayed into the air, by either volcanic eruptions or asteroid impacts. The examined patch of soil is 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) across. The large, circular pebble in the lower left corner is approximately 3 millimeters (.12 inches) across, or about the size of a sunflower seed. This color composite was obtained by merging images acquired with the orange-tinted dust cover in both its open and closed positions. The blue tint at the lower right corner is a tag used by scientists to indicate that the dust cover is closed.

Original Source: NASA/JPL News Release

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