Scientists release monster pan of Mars

By EXN Staff
 On Wednesday afternoon, NASA scientists revealed the full "monster" panoramic view of the Red Planet from a standing position. The colour version is in the process of being prepared, but the scientists warn it won't be ready until at least Friday.

As they presented the monster pan, they also explained that their analysis of Barnacle Bill is only a hypothesis that has to be tested by studying a variety of Martian rocks.

The monster pan "unwrapped". Click here to see a video of the monster pan with a 28.8 connection.

 Yesterday, Pathfinder's scientists revealed the first ever chemical analysis of a Martian rock - "Barnacle Bill," so named because of little markings all over its surface. Barnacle Bill was found to be rich in silicon or quartz (silicon dioxide), and appears to fall into a category of rocks called andesites - the most common volcanic rocks on Earth. The quartz indicates that the rock went through successive periods of heating and cooling - required to form these types of rocks. The analysis shows that Mars is more like Earth than Earth's moon. This similarity is a far cry from the 1960s when Mars was thought to be more like our moon; flybys of the Red Planet showed large craters similar to those on Earth's moon.

Above: Sojourner analyzing Barnacle Bill with its alpha proton x-ray spectrometer

 Today, Jeff Johnson of the US Geological Survey announced that the rough texture of Barnacle Bill suggests that it may be a "breccia:" a mixture of rock fragments. He points out however, that tests done so far on a 1 to 2 centimetre resolution shows that it's not. But then again, the rock could be composed of heterogeneous fine-grained materials smaller than one centimetre. The only way to know is to do further tests on other types of rocks on Mars.

Sojourner with Barnacle Bill to its left, Yogi to its upper right.

 Click here. While the world waits for Sojourner, the rover, to analyze other rocks (starting with "Yogi" on Wednesday night), we can be sure of one thing: the famous twelve rocks - believed to be from Mars and now on Earth - probably do hail from the red planet. That includes the celebrated Mars meteorite ALH84001, which some scientists think shows evidence of past microbial life on Mars.

Arrow points to a pile of dirt Sojourner built from which it can analyze Yogi (above it).

Sojourner's alpha proton x-ray spectrometer can read the elements of whatever material it's put up against by bombarding the rock or soil with alpha particle radiation. We now have the "chemical fingerprint" of at least one type of Martian rock.

Click on the image above for a video of Sojourner digging up the Martian dirt (28.8 connection).

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