Feeds

Red Planet serves up blueberries

Martian pebbles point to water flow

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Martian blueberries, marble-shaped pebbles known as haematite concretions, could be another indication that water once flowed on the surface of the red planet, according to researchers in the US.

In a study published tomorrow (17 June), geologists from the University of Utah describe how blueberries are formed in groundwater on Earth; they had expected the rocks would be present on the Martian surface.

Marjorie Chan, chair and professor of geology and geophysics at the university, said that she and her team had come up with a 'recipe' for the blueberries based on their research into haematite-rich areas in Utah, where the concretions probably formed about 25 million years ago. Based on this research, they theorised that there might be similar formations on Mars.

Haematite is iron oxide - a grey form of the mineral that has a larger crystalline structure than the more familiar red stuff, or rust. The concretions form when significant volumes of groundwater flowed through permeable rock, and chemical reactions trigger minerals to precipitate and start forming a layered, spherical ball. They all that is left once the soft sandstone is washed away, and are known as Moqui Marbles.

They get their name from an Hopi Indian legend that 'moqui,' or spirits of their ancestors, played marbles with the blueberries in the American Southwest.

The round rocks were spotted on Mars five days after Opportunity, one of the two Mars rovers, landed. On Earth the marbles vary in size from less than one 25th of an inch to over eight inches in diameter, but the Mars blueberries appear to be much more uniform.

Earth's marbles are composed of an aggregate of haematite and sandstone, with the iron oxide accounting for up to one third of the content, Mars blueberries are likely to be pure haematite. This is because Martian ground water was probably acidic.

The researchers say that aerial photographs of the marble covered areas of Utah closely resemble images beamed back from Martian satellites. Similar features - such as large landforms shaped like knobs, pipes and buttes, and bleached-looking sediment beds - show up in both sets of images. This suggests they were formed by similar processes. ®

Related stories

NASA to grow Brit strawberries on Mars
Scrap space robots, government urged
Opportunity knocked by Martian rock

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.