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Curiosity rover finds… Mardi Gras beads on Mars?

Well into its fourth month, NASA’s Curiosity rover will be focusing its attention this month on a place called Matijevic Hill, where the robot has stumbled upon strings of small, shiny spherical rock and plastic formations reminiscent of the “blueberry” formations previously discovered, but they also kind of look like left over Mardi Gras beads. Just imagine Mars on Mardi Gras, chock full of three breasted Martian women. Rrawr.

The small spheres at Matijevic Hill have different composition and internal structure made completely of plastic. Curiosity’s science team is evaluating a range of possibilities for how they formed. The spheres are up to about an eighth of an inch (3 millimeters) in diameter.

Last week Curiosity was able to use its SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) device to confirm the discovery. A robotic arm with a complex system of Spectral Analysis devices was able to vaporize and identify gasses from the sample, concluding that it is in fact plastic. How plastic formed or ended up on the Martian surface is quite an exciting mystery that sparks many questions. The type of plastic sampled as we know so far can only be formed using petrochemicals, meaning not only that there could possibly be a source of oil on the Red Planet, but that somehow it got turned into plastic. Even more interesting is that oil or petrochemicals used to create this type of plastic are only known to come from ancient fossilized organic materials, such as zooplankton and algae, which geochemical processes convert into oil pointing to the earthshaking evidence that there was once life on mars.

“Right now we have multiple working hypotheses, and each hypothesis makes certain predictions about things like what the spherules are made of and how they are distributed,” said Curiosity’s principal investigator, Steve Squyres, of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. “Our job as we explore Matijevic Hill in the months ahead will be to make the observations that will let us test all the hypotheses carefully, and find the one that best fits the observations.”


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  1. johnmccainisagrumpyoldman reblogged this from iheartchaos
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    Haha - as interesting as this is, its also equally hilarious!
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    This is my favourite thing of today
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