Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Spirit Unearths Surprise Evidence of Wetter Past


"We've looked at dozens of disturbed soil targets in the rover tracks, and this is the first one that shows a high silica signature," said Ruff, who last month proposed using Spirit's miniature thermal emission spectrometer to observe this soil. That instrument provides mineral composition information about targets viewed from a distance. The indications it found for silica in the overturned soil prompted a decision this month to drive Spirit close enough to touch the soil with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer. Silica commonly occurs on Earth as the crystalline mineral quartz and is the main ingredient in window glass. The Martian silica at the Gertrude Weise patch is non-crystalline, with no detectable quartz.

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