Once more with Spirit

The snoozing Mars Rover Spirit has managed to dig out further details from the surface of Mars, without even waking up. Scientists going through data retrieved from the rover have applied a new technique for removing the signal of dust from the Mini Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES) to old data thought lost due to coatings of the red stuff. What they found was a large amount of carbonate bearing rock – by far the largest single deposit found.

Whilst evidence of water having once been on the surface of the Red Planet has been found before, large amounts of carbonate containing rock show for the first time a region where water of neutral ph exists – water like on Earth rather than the acidic stuff believed to have been prevalent at other points on the Martian surface. The importance of that is here we have somewhere life as we know it – if it ever developed – could have begun (later evolving to deal with the acidic conditions elsewhere in Mars).

More details (from two Atkinsons) here.

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