Martian Winter

Both Spirit and Opportunity are trying to find a spot to bed down for the Martian winter. They deserve a good rest. But as a Christmas present, Spirit has left a bit of a puzzle under our tree.

The puzzle is what produced a patch of nearly pure silica — the main ingredient of window glass — that Spirit found last May. It could have come from either a hot-spring environment or an environment called a fumarole, in which acidic steam rises through cracks. On Earth, both of these types of settings teem with microbial life.

“Whichever of those conditions produced it, this concentration of silica is probably the most significant discovery by Spirit for revealing a habitable niche that existed on Mars in the past,” said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the rovers’ science payload.

And why should this be significant? Well, because:

Nasa says its Mars rover Spirit has discovered “the best evidence yet” of a past habitable environment on the planet’s surface.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Astronomy, Science, Space

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