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Emily LakdawallaSeptember 6, 2012

Pretty picture: bizarre spherules

This is one of the strangest space images I've seen in a long time. This is a mosaic of four images taken with Opportunity's Microscopic Imager of an outcrop of rock facing the interior of Endeavour crater.

Opportunity Microscopic Imager mosaic, sol 3064: spherules

NASA / JPL-Caltech / USGS / Stuart Atkinson

Opportunity Microscopic Imager mosaic, sol 3064: spherules
A mosaic of 4 images captured with Opportunity's Microscopic Imager on sol 3064 (6 September 2012) shows strange spherules embedded in a fine-grained matrix. At the time, Opportunity was on the inner rim of Endeavour crater at Cape York, exploring a fin-like outcrop.

Now, Opportunity has seen spherical things embedded in rock before: the ubiquitous blueberries of Meridiani planum. But Opportunity is now looking at rocks more ancient than (because they're found underneath) the blueberry-bearing ones. Furthermore, these don't look like the blueberries. They're more resistant to erosion than blueberries, but they also have a tendency to crack in half, which blueberries generally don't. And the cracked-open ones seem to have rinds with different properties from their interiors. And there's so many of them, packed so closely together. What could they be?

I'm looking forward to finding out what the science team thinks!

In the meantime, I've been sadly remiss in featuring Stuart Atkinson's Road to Endeavour blog posts here. I will need to concatenate a few together to build a story about what Opportunity's been doing lately!

Read more: pretty pictures, Opportunity, data art (was amateur image processing), Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
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