Stone Mountain

I was sitting in my air-conditioned office in Broken Hill, Australia, at lunch time, thinking I would avoid the 40 degree C summer heat outside and see if I could find out what was happening on Mars. I am amazed! Wow! Real rocks! This picture looks like the edge of a young volcanic crater in New Zealand or southern Queensland, with layered lava flow rocks containing spherical amygdules (mineral filled gas holes). The gas holes may have been a bit bigger on Mars if the gravity is less. Amygdules are usually formed through mineral infilling of gas holes by the movement of ground water on Earth. Answers will be provided if we get to see the chemical analyses of these rocks.

Why are the amygdules lined up in the sand above the outcropping? Did you see this kind of pattern also in New Zealand? Is this lining up typical of amygdules?

why are the amygdule lined up in the sand in many places above the outcropping rock. Is this typical of amygdule formations?

Good observation Karl! Looking closely at the rocks in this photograph and others I think there is sufficient evidence that the in situ spheres (my amygdules) are embedded within the rock and should also be found inside the rock if broken open. The spheres in the sand I would think have weathered out of the rock and have concentrated at the rock-sand interface. The alignment could reflect spheres sitting in grooves in the surface of the underlying rock, or there could be wind alignment as seen on the sand surface in some of the other Mars photos. Spherical amygdules within the lava rock would imply little flow of the lava at the time of gas bubble formation. If the lava was flowing with the gas bubbles in it, the amygdules would be aligned ellipsoids recording the direction of flow, and this does not seem to be the case here. Another possibility is that the spheres are some form of mineral concretions that have grown out evenly from various nucleation points in the original rock. It would be nice to know something about the internal structure of the spheres as well some chemical analyses on the spheres and the rock matrix in which they occur.

Hey you guys. Glad to see some people actually enthusiastic with this mission and actually looking to interperate for themselves whats being observed. To add my own input, I am favoring the idea... that... this is evidence of water. In the press briefing they mentioned the millimeter thin layers are too thin to be lava flows (although possibly ash layers compacted). My own imput is APX Spectrum shows Hermatite despensed in the area, add in we are observing thin sedimentary rocks, sounds like two pieces of evidence that fit a liquid water origin.
If I could ask a question at a press briefing, I'd ask if there is a possibility of seeing a plateu on the mission. The area is mostly eroded plains with more solid materials that didnt erode, rising with flat top apexes. I was wondering if they are in range? The surface of Meridiani is so flat, autonomous navigation could navigate here even faster than at Gusev.
You guys got a lot of imput on the sphericals (amygdule) Australia, you've seen them? Very Cool!

Thanks Kingsley for taking the time to answer my question. I believe yours is a good explaination. I can see below the rock outcrop, that there are parallel ridges which could stop the amygdules in parallel lines, the ridges above may be covered in dust.

My next questions are: why do the amygdules seem to be equally spaced from each other above the rock outcrop? Is it because they are in the process of being released and why doesn't the outcrop itself show this abundance of amygdules? It might be that the wind blew the loose amygdules into these patterns as you mention.

Less plausable and probably does not apply to this situation, but I want to mention this, living things in competion show this kind of spacing shown by the amygdules above the outcropping.

I've had a rethink about the nature and origin of these spheres. I think they might be accretionary lapilli. These form in volcanic ash clouds when drops of liquid (rain drops) fall through the ash clouds and pick up the ash to eventually form mud-balls by the time they reach the ground, and accumulate along with the fine ash. The accretionary lapilli form hard cement-like balls as the ash reacts with the liquid and the balls dry out (as with cement). The surrounding ash, however, is only poorly cemented and is easily mechanically eroded later by the wind to leave the freed balls to concentrate near the outcrops. The later more detailed pictures of the spheres shows that they appear to be composed of fine material with little or no internal structure within the worn and broken ones, although we might expect some concentric layers in accretionary lapilli. So, you could be right, Mike, on Earth we would certainly say that water was involved in the formation of accretionary lapilli. I'm not so sure about haematite as a water indicator though, I would prefer to see something containing hydrogen, like limonite or clays.

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:
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/opportunity/20040204a/1M129070954EFF0224P2933M2M1_str-B011R1_br.jpg

With the fossils on the following URLs:
http://www.cretaceousfossils.com/plants/porocystis_globularis.htm
http://www.iftx.com/oct03.jpg
http://wardsci.com/category.asp?c=834
http://www.iftx.com/oct03.jpg

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

http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/navassa/geology/fossils4.html


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:
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/1/p/019/1P129879046EFF0352P2266L7M1.HTML
(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.

If is true that the rover is moving across the bed of an ancient Martian sea then it might be expected that it would encounter ancient sea floor sedimentary rock.

What would the floor of an ancient Martian sea be like. Perhaps a ferro-silica gel kind of mud (c/f the chert banded ironstone sedimentary formations of the Pilbara in West Australia). If this were so then the little balls might be chert spherulites, formed from silica seeded out of the mud like water droplets seeded out of a cloud.

Sedimentary rock formation at that time would have been under conditions of the Martian sea chemical mix, Martian temperature, gravity, and climatic variability (or lack of).

The panoramic view of the base rock outcrop could be a view of a silicious (cherty) sedimentary rock. The harder chert spherulites are contained in and weathered out of the softer matrix rock and lay strewn around on the ground. Some are not entirely weathered out and are still stuck on the rock surface. The rock that looks coral-like could be a microcrystalline (or cryptocrystalline) chert crusty rock.

The rocks have weathered concoidal fracture surfaces, and are fine grained, suggesting a possible sedimentary chemical silica origin material.

Keep it up guys!! Finally, some intelligent discussion as to what we might be looking at in Mars photos.! Thanks!

Keep it up guys!! Finally, some intelligent discussion as to what we might be looking at in Mars photos.! Thanks!

space.com has some interesting articles about the spherules. Here's a quote from one of the articles in which Steve Squyres outlined three hypotheses regarding the origin of the shperes:
There are three leading hypotheses:

* The spherules might have formed when ash from a volcanic eruption was suspended in the air, stuck together, and fell from the sky. That idea is rapidly falling from favor, Squyres said, because it would tend to produce spherules made of the same material as the rock's main matrix.

* They might have formed when molten rock -- either from a volcano or a meteor impact -- froze in mid-air into glass beads.

* Most interesting, they might be "concretions," which form when a fluid, possibly water, carrying dissolved minerals flows through a rock and "precipitates" a grain that typically grows into a sphere.

I remember reading somewhere that he said they found a lot of sulfur associated with the outcrop.

space.com has some interesting articles about the spherules. Here's a quote from one of the articles in which Steve Squyres outlined three hypotheses regarding the origin of the shperes:
There are three leading hypotheses:

* The spherules might have formed when ash from a volcanic eruption was suspended in the air, stuck together, and fell from the sky. That idea is rapidly falling from favor, Squyres said, because it would tend to produce spherules made of the same material as the rock's main matrix.

* They might have formed when molten rock -- either from a volcano or a meteor impact -- froze in mid-air into glass beads.

* Most interesting, they might be "concretions," which form when a fluid, possibly water, carrying dissolved minerals flows through a rock and "precipitates" a grain that typically grows into a sphere.

I remember reading somewhere that he said they found a lot of sulfur associated with the outcrop.

hello folks...
good reviews above, I note.

I have enlarged a section of the Stone Mountain pic above in PaintShop Pro to 5000 x 3000 pixel size and note the following:

The globules, and I will call the globules here, are uniformly distributed in the pic. There are several that are split in half and facing or angled toward us to see and some have pieces missing from their surface. I would say that nearly 90% are unbroken, cracked or split. They do not seem to be hollow, but solid, as seen in another NASA pic. There are several globules that are assembeled together, like twins, joined, you can see these too. Very interesting stuff these 'BB' like things!

But the most interesting thing, at least in my mind, is that they are embedded into the rock and thus as old as the rock, so, were they on Mars before they were embedded during heavy volcanism, or are they comet residue from impact...the list goes on.

Obviously, they are harder and sturdier than the rock!!! They could be lead beads for all we know, but then again lead solder beads don't split in half!??

Anyone?

yt
dx

On the other hand if there was never any Mars surface sea/ocean size body of liquid water then no significant subaqueous sedimentary rocks. There may however be aeolian sediments which had permafrost water before (and after) lithification, giving ferro dust sand with spherulitic hardening and circulating ground water.

On another hand, what about Martian volcanics. What kind of lavas might one expect on Mars. Without the kind of earthly crustal recycling and mantle melting processes, maybe Mars only has one flavour of lava, some kind of runny stuff as it has pumped out through its noted string of shield volcanes.

Does Mars have a big iron core/mantle-crust volume ratio through what has happened to it during its development, and how come there is so much haematite about the place, and what other mineral types.

Maybe Mars is crustally, a more or less homogenous shell of interlayered runny uniflavoured lava flows with a dusty sandy surface, then perhaps the rounded pebbles are some kind of feature of some kind of Martian lava type, perhaps some kind of a ferro-glassy lava.

Am interested to hear anyperson’s imagination speculation about what Martian lava(s) might be like. Is there anything anywhere anytime on Earth that might compare.

bob,
You've raised lots of interesting questions. Albert Hsui of the Univ. of Illinois has put together a terrific website on martian geology: http://www.lukew.com/marsgeo/introduction7.html

Your thoughts about the martian crust are interesting. Husi describes two type of martian volcanoes. Perhaps that means that there is more than one 'flavor' to the martian lavas. It might make sense that at least early in the history of the planet there was some differentiation of the magmas....

What about a frozen CO2 hail storm. This stuff looks like hail to me. Given the amount of dust in the atmosphere, and the large amount of CO2 present, I assume it's possible to have clouds of CO2 raining down frozen spheres of this stuff.

Hailstones?

Meridiani isn't cold enough for CO2 ice to remain (if the atmosphere is even capable of making CO2 hailstones). I haven't seen the temperatures for Meridiani quoted, but for Gusev, also near the equator, Spirit saw (probably daytime):

On the ground, the warmest temperature is around five degrees Celsius and the coldest is -15 degrees Celsius.

Hi,

I feel the same way.

If you look at
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/all/1/m/028/1M130672510EFF0454P2933M2M1.JPG
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,

chaosman

stmafe