June 24, 2014

Aluminum-Bearing Site on Mars Draws NASA Visitor

Posted by tourdemars to Mars Exploration Rovers at June 24, 2014 12:36 PM

With its solar panels their cleanest in years, NASA's decade-old Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is inspecting a section of crater-rim ridgeline chosen as a priority target due to evidence of a water-related mineral. Orbital observations of the site by another NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, found a spectrum with the signature of aluminum bound to oxygen and hydrogen. Researchers regard that signature as a marker for a mineral called montmorillonite, which is in a class of clay minerals called smectites. Montmorillonite forms when basalt is altered under wet and slightly acidic conditions. The exposure of it extends about 800 feet (about 240 meters) north to south on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, as mapped by the orbiter's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM). "It's like a mineral beacon visible from orbit saying, 'Come check this out,'" said Opportunity Principal Investigator Steve Squyres, of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
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