Feeds

NASA probe finds opals in Martian crevices

Mars became Australian uninhabitable later than thought

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A NASA space probe orbiting Mars has discovered deposits of opals in the mighty Valles Marineris canyon system* east of Tharsis. Opals aren't valuable enough to justify interplanetary trade, but the discovery is significant as it suggests that liquid water existed on Mars a billion years more recently than had been thought.

NASA orbital pic showing the Martian opal deposits

The opal mines of the Valles Marineris.

"This is an exciting discovery because it extends the time range for liquid water on Mars, and the places where it might have supported life," said Scott Murchie of Johns Hopkins University, in charge of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's spectrometer scope.

"The identification of opaline silica tells us that water may have existed as recently as 2 billion years ago."

Until lately, Mars boffins had reckoned that the last liquid water disappeared from the Red Planet's surface at least three billion years ago. This was based on discoveries of "clay-like" phyllosilicates and hydrated sulphates. But the new opal finds have caused NASA to revise the date of the Great Drying forward by a billion years.

"We see numerous outcrops of opal-like minerals, commonly in thin layers extending for very long distances around the rim of Valles Marineris and sometimes within the canyon system itself," said Ralph Milliken of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Milliken is one of NASA's top Martian water-formed gemstone brains, seemingly.

The new interplanetary gemstone discoveries make intuitive sense, at any rate. Most of Earth's opals come from Australia, a region which like Mars is remote, dry and predominantly red. The opal is in fact Australia's national gemstone. ®

*The "largest known crevice in the solar system", apparently.

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?