New Mars Sample Astounds Scientists, Hints at Water

Rocks may contain clay minerals that form in wet conditions

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 2, 2011 1:46 PM CDT

(Newser) – Scientists are marveling over the latest discovery by the Mars rover Opportunity, which seems to suggest that the red planet may be more hospitable to life than previously believed. The venerable robot—now 7.5 years into its exploration of the planet—has found a lighter-colored rock that “is different from any rock we've ever seen on Mars,” says the Opportunity’s lead investigator, according to AFP.

The rock, which has been dubbed “Tisdale 2,” has “a composition similar to some volcanic rocks, but there's much more zinc and bromine than we've typically seen,” the investigator explained. That has led scientists to believe that the crater the rover is exploring contains rocks composed of clay minerals that form in wet conditions and that might be better suited to sustain life. Elsewhere in the crater is a shelf of sedimentary rock, which bears veins of material that may have been left by water.

The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity extends its arm over a light-toned rock, Tisdale 2, in this photo released by NASA on Sept. 1, 2011.
The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity extends its arm over a light-toned rock, "Tisdale 2," in this photo released by NASA on Sept. 1, 2011.   (AP Photo/NASA)
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