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NASA Rover Curiosity update

1 November 2012

At http://phys.org/print270838398.html … an analysis fo soil on Mars by NASAs Curiosity Rover has revealed the presence of feldspar, pyroxenes and olivine, mixed with amorphous non-crystalline material. It was taken from a wind blown deposit (solar wind?) within a large crater and it has already been compared to volcanic soils on Hawaii. A compact X-ray diffraction instrument was fitted inside the Rover and is proving to be invaluable. This is the first of many soil and rock studies that Curiosity will produce. However, it should be noted the sample was not the sort of soil particles we might encounter when digging garden plots but they were extremely small. In essence, they were particles of dust and very fine grains of sand. Also, this is a quite different kind of experiment to that of a couple of weeks ago when Curiosity examined some conglomerate rocks which seemed to indicate the possibility of flowing water at some point in the history of Mars. The planet has a lot of dust and it is kicked up relentlessly by the solar wind. This is described as volcanic glass, a term that could apply to material with a non-volcanic origin as it is essentially descriptive, describing features of resemblance. The beauty of this kind of research is that it will also affect how geologists look at rocks on Earth. However, for the moment a connection with volcanoes is conjectural – but that doesn't mean other ways of forming volcanic like glass will not be explored.

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