Mars Update: Liquid Water Flowed in Meridiani Planum
I'm watching live on NASA TV and updating this post as information is revealed:
The Big News: There was ample liquid water in Meridiani Planum (where the Opportunity Rover is exploring), and for a long time this area would have been ripe for life. There are four pieces of evidence for liquid water, which the add up to what the science team calls "definitive" proof.
- Rock spherules (which have sometimes been referred to as "blueberries") appear to be concretions, formed when rocks form from raw material suspended in liquid water.
- The Martian rock is "shot through with some very weird looking holes" which suggest the former presence of tabular crystals which have since been eroded away by water.
- Using the Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) and a spectrographic analyzer the scientists have found extremely high levels of sulfur, suggesting the onetime presence of sulfate salts, which suggest water.
- The Mössbauer Spectrometer data has revealed jarosite, a sulfate hydrate which only occurs in the presence of water.
The scientists want very much to return rocks to Earth for more detailed and flexible analysis here. This could be accomplished earliest via robot landers with return vehicles, or eventually via manned exploration.