Martian Marbles

Take a look at this digital photo that I took. It's a close-up of some Martian sand. Notice the round rocks on top of the sand, especially the one in lower left of the photo. Now you know why they call them marbles. :lol:

If this doesn't look like a beach scene, I've never been to a beach.

The spheres are fossils. Probably planktonic life forms like diatoms. The oceans on Mars may have been much saltier and denser than ours, and supported larger size planktonic organisms including the 3mm size seen here. The micro view shows two with similar (mouth?) holes. This symmetry and similarity argues against them being vessicle fillings. Another picture from the sphere rich regions shown in the nav cam would resolve this issue if it showed numerous mouth holes like the ones in this image. Opportunity is sitting is a deposit that might be described as "diatomaceous mars". These spheres look to be eroding from the lighter colored rocks and accumulating in the crater due to size and density.

People have mentioned this possible plant that looks like just a hole in the data, but has anyone else noticed the possible fossils in the one high resolution (composite?) picture released so far? Below the obvious cross bedded large rock, it looks like two different fossils can be seen in the bedding plane:

See the original from the press release "Opportunity Rover begins standing up".


The 3 toed track is intriguing, and it seems like there are other tracks nearby, but it could also be an image artifact.


I think the case is better for the frond, which can be seen forming a smooth curve toward the front of the rock. Both can be seen less clearly in other images. I can't wait for a better image of this section of rocks. For me, this is the most exciting time in science in my 42 year life.

Thanks, Nasa
Philip Simon

When I first saw these spheres I thought they had to be some sort of fossil, I want them to be a fossil. There are sevral non organic origins for objects like this.
Iron and manganese can form nodules like this in the deep ocean, they even have a small pitt where the growth started from. This is still very cool as it indicates mars did have oceans. They could also be ejecta from an impact or volcanoe whech has cooled as it fell. Of course they could still be of biological origin. I do find it interesting that they are apparently weathering out of the rock. I think we'll find the surface out of the crater covered with these spheres, lots to study!

Even if they are really fossils, I doubt NASA will admit it. Our government seems to have much more fun covering-up information than disclosing it to the public.

hello folks

try this on for size:

could there be an answer to the mystery?


Sol 19 pictures show round spheres going much further outside the crater. They appear to cover a dune in great numbers. I am beginning to see why NASA considers these spheres volcanic spew or impact debris.

I have a pretty strong hunch that all these round stones are simply "LARGE SAND PARTICLES" shaped by very strong wind storms.

The only ice or water on Mars would be from coments crashing to it's surface. There's never been oceans here folks! But all these "berries" are formed by being picked up and tossed about at fairly high velocity, then slowly shaped and formed to be like "large sand" over much time...

Can you tell me:

Why doesn't NASA consider fossils as an option for explaining the spheres ?

Some of them do really look nearly exactly like some fossils found on earth:

Compare e.g. the sphere on the following URL:

With the fossils on the following URLs:

Or compare the Opportunity outcrop structure to the following image showing the layering found in coral fossils on earth:

So whats's going on a NASA ? Have the geologist overcome the astrobiologists ?

I mean they are searching for water action in mars history and find something that looks very much like fossils and they don't consider it as an option ?

They should try to crack some of the globules by the RAT or by driving over some that are deposited on stones. And then use the MI. That would be an option:
(spheres on stones)

Maybe we should take action and spread this information to as many people as possible.

So please copy and paste and bring it up on webpages, email and discussion forums.

I'm a paleontologist with no connection with NASA or JPL. The fossil that you are comparing to the sphereule, is a fossil sponge. I see some differences between the earth fossil and the martian sphereule. One is the surface texture. Note that the sponge (Porocystis) has lots of bumps and pits on the surface. These are essential features of it's morphology and one of the things that define it as a sponge. The martian sphereule lacks those features (as far as I can tell). The second difference is one of size. The Porocystis fossils tend to be about 1 cm in diameter. Frustratingly, the mars image you cited has no obvious scale, but I think I remember reading that the width of that image was about 1.5 inches. That would make the little shpereule only a millimeter or two in diameter. With fossils as all living organisms, size matters.
I think the NASA and JPL scientists are being very cautious with their interpretations. The scientific community would jump all over them if they started interpreting features as evidence of life. As long as someone can come up with an abiotic explanation for what they see, that's the one they'll go with. They only venture a biotic interpretation for a feature if there is no other way to explain it.

Just a dumb question.

If you were going to evolve a macroscopic organism in a dry low pressure environment, what would be the most energy efficient design?

OK, now for dumb question # 2.

How the heck would you get energy/food/water into the organism with that design?

For the biotic folks here, methinks that drawing analogies from our evolutionary history may be a mis-step.

Your question is not dumb, but to the point. I don't think too many people (me for sure) can conceive of life evolving in the absence of water. That's why the NASA people are looking so hard for any evidence of water on the surface or beneath the surface.
Perhaps someone who has a better understanding of thermodynamics and physical chemistry than I (and I sure don't know much about those subjects) could imagine some form of non-aqueous life.
Your point can be applied in a broader sense, too, I think we have to be very careful about using earth models to interpret what we see on Mars.

for a growing organism, you need some kind of solvent to transfer esential elements within the host. Liquid organics (methane, ethane, ect) might be the solvent of choice for mars life. But oceans of solvent would not arrise naturally, mars life would have to make it themselves.

Water has so many other benefits to life. Freezes on the top first, large latent heat, has a large range of liquid at temperature and pressure, ect. plus, water is natrually abundant in our solar system.

I do agree that if life arose on mars, there is a differnent set of dynamics governing how life would evolve beyond single cells. We might not recognize multicelluar mars life if we were staring at it.

I realize that the discussion of biology creating the spheres we see everywhere at the Opportunity site is touchy, but as a scientist, it is one way we get structures similar to these on Earth. I'm very concerned as to why this particular possibility is being treated as a bad if some sort of taboo is in place. As scientists we have to ask the question: What processes on Earth form spherical grains? Ooids, Oncolites, tekites, volcanic "rain", concretions, and biological processes. Next, what forms spherical grains by the millions where the mean size and roundness is so similar. The list of possibilities gets smaller. Anyway the avoidance by NASA scientists of the biology possibility is bothersome. I'm not saying it is....I'm saying it is in the list of possible explainations. There is a big difference....and as scientists we should be freely listing all the possibilities.


Have they found similar spherical grains at Guessev site with Spirit? I find these spherical objects to be most interesting and the possiblity of them being fossils is exciting. The funny thing about all this, is that when we do discover life on a another planet, it's gonna hit us right in the face and we're not gonna know what to do. I want to believe we are looking at ancient life forms as fossils on Mars.

There are some really nice rounded grains visible in the Micro Images Sol41 at the Spirit site, but they don't have the size and appearance as what we see at Opportunity. One really great image at the Spirit site is Pan Camera image 23, Sol 47...this is where the wheel dug a bit into the soil and if you look closely it appears to be mud. Something there is definately aqueous.



the spherules (or someting similar) were also found in the soil by Opportunity now:

They appear shiny and seem to be covered by some kind of shiny layer.

In the press conference (achived at,ST;
see webcast from 2/19/2004)

NASA stated that there could be at least a liitle bit of moisture (probaly brines) in the soil at both sides. This could explain the strange physical properties.

NASA was questioned about the filament that can be seen in one of the MI imgages:

for reference.

They said they noticed "several" of them and have no explanation yet other that they might come from the airbags.

Steve Squyres (mission manager) seemed to be pretty excited about all of this topics. I think that he tries the very best he can to hunt all of the possibilities down.

Well things seem to heat up...



Saturday February 21, 2004

Why are the vast majority of the Martian marbles? um ... spherical?

Has anyone noticed in the Opportunity outcrop- two marbles embedded in the rock with one showing a seam, and the other cracked perfectly in half (along a seam)?

Has anyone noticed that many of the spheres on the surface are cracked perfectly in half along that seam?

Has anyone determined what they are made of?
Calcium carbonate? Silicon? If not, why? I want to know.

Has anyone noticed what looks like a mud ooze by Spirit’s wheel? Pan Cam Image 23 Sol 47.

I hear that the rock outcrop at Opportunities location has detected sulphur. Chemosynthetic? Hydrothermal? Who has courage to admit to the possibility? I know the scientific method. It demands that all the possibilities be investigated. But... NASA Scientists and most messages I read seem biased toward the Non-Biologic hypothesis. Hello? I thought Science isn’t supposed to be biased.

Has anyone noticed structure on the surface of these marbles? Little black dots, and polygonal patterns? Poor quality pictures? OK, why? How much did we spend on those rovers? Where are the reprocessed images?

Has anyone noticed the little hole on some of the marbles in addition to all of the other curious features?
you will find a picture of a echinomorph with a red arrow pointing to the little hole in the sphere labeled “Anus”.

Who is afraid of being debunked? Why aren’t NASA Geologists allowed to control of this issue? Astronomers making speeches don’t know as much about “ROCKS” as Geologists do. Does that make sense?

Are we worried about the moral impact here? Ok, since when is Science supposed to be worried about that?

Well, I could go on all night. I obviously have feelings about this issue. Who doesn’t?

We need to have more courage to discuss ALL of the possibilities, INCLUDING biology.

We need more data, and we need more interpretation of the data we have.

We spent Eight Hundred Million Dollars to send these rovers to Mars, to look for water and potential life, present or past.
So why are we not hearing more discussion on these issues from NASA, given the data we are seeing?

Ultimately the truth hides from no one. It is we who are too often afraid of it.

1 Ooids
2 Oncolites
3 Pisolites
4 Tekites
5 Lava “rain”
6 Concretions

1 Foraminifera
2 Diatoms
3 Crinoids
4 Blastoids
5 Coccoliths
6 Echinoderms
7 Radiolarians

Thomas E. Collins


I feel the same way.

If you look at
you will notice one spherule (under the double one) that shows two intersections. (It's not longer round due to this intersections).

If I look closely I see:

1. Some kind of a core
2. Some kind of fine veins between the core and the outer sections
3. Some kind of "cellular structure"
4. Inner core is brighter than outer rim

It looks very much similar to a plant intersection to me.

Is this just wishful thinking ? Are my eyes playing tricks to me ?
Anybody else with the same impressions ?

I think we could need some public pressure to back up those people at NASA that see bioloy as an option for some of the strange features and want to go after that hypothesis.

This can be done by proliferating the ideas we discuss on the internet (other discussion forums, email ... ).

Copy - Paste works fine !

Best Regards,




Thanks for the information. I agree, it does look like mud. This is very exciting.

Thanks again.