Astronomy Picture of the Day
January 20, 2013

Spherules and Mineral Veins at Gale Crater - Sol 139
Spherules and Mineral Veins at Gale Crater - Sol 139

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS and Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF for the additional process and color.

This image, which has been obtained by the Right Mast Camera (or "MastCam", for short) of the NASA - Mars Exploration Rover (MER) - Mars Laboratory "Curiosity", shows us a few interesting details of the Rocky Paving and Features located in an area of the Floor of Gale Crater which is relatively near to the Landing Site, that has been nicknamed "Yellowknife Bay"; in particular, several well-defined Veins filled with a whitish Mineral (that as been interpreted to be Calcium Sulphate) and a great number of roughly Spherical Features - which look just like the ones found at Meridiani Planum, by the NASA - Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, and nicknamed "Martian Blueberries" - are very well visible all over the scene.

The Mineral Veins usually form when Liquid Water freely circulates through some Fractures of the Surface and, while doing that, it deposits Salts and other Minerals along the sides of the Fractures themselves. In time (of course, a VERY LONG time!), these Mineral Deposites, once the Water is gone, solidify completely, become extremely compact and form a so-called "Mineral Vein" (like the one dubbed "Homestake", which was found in the proximities of the Martian Crater Endeavour, still in the Region of Meridiani Planum, and once again by the NASA - Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity). However, in our opinion, as IPF, a lot of similarities between the Mineral Veins seen here and the so-called "Razorbacks" - specifically found at Endurance Crater - are more than clearly visible (and, to be extremely honest, we are surprised that the NASA Scientists did not highlight this, we believe really meaningful, circumstance).

On the other hand, and as far as the "Spherules" are concerned, it appears that they are a relatively common Surface Feature in this Stratigraphic Unit (nicknamed "Sheepbed Unit"), which defines the lower part of the sequences of Strata that have been exposed in the "Yellowknife Bay". These Spherules are interpreted, by the NASA Scientists, as "Concretions": a definition which implies that they should have formed in Water that percolated (---> the movement and filtering of fluids through porous materials) through the Sediment. Even in this case, however, we believe, as IPF, that the processes which led to the formation of the Spherules here, could and should be the same ones that ended with the formation of the "Martian Blueberries" at Meridiani Planum (please notice that the visual similarities between these Spherules and the ones found of the Paved Surface - as well as on countless Rocks and Boulders - of Meridiani Planum, are, once again and as a matter of fact, very obvious).

The MastCam of the NASA - Mars Exploration Rover (MER) - Mars Laboratory "Curiosity" obtained this frame on the 139th Martian Day, or Sol, of Operations at Gale Crater (such as December, 25th, 2012).

This picture (which is an Original NASA - Mars Exploration Rover - Mars Laboratory "Curiosity" "white-balanced" color frame published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 16706) has been additionally processed and then re-colorized in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were near the NASA - Mars Exploration Rover (MER) - Mars Laboratory "Curiosity" and then looked ahead, towards the Rocky Paving located in front of and around the Rover), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team. Different colors, as well as different shades of the same color, mean, among other things, the existence of different Elements (Minerals) present on the Surface of Gale Crater, each having a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.

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