Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Mars Exploration News  

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

There's Hematite In Them... Plains

The distribution of hematite in Sinus Meridiani, where Meridiani Planum is located. Larger image and a related pix showing just how rare the Meridiani hematite rich region is.

Pasadena (JPL) Jan 27, 2004
Busy as she has been with work, JPL's Dr. Joy Crisp, project scientist for the Mars Exploration Rover Project, found time a few weeks ago to do a little shopping. The new necklace she bought is a simple string of dark grey beads and wasn't expensive. What makes it significant is that it is made of specular hematite, which for Mars scientists like Crisp may prove to be more special than diamonds.

On Earth, the shiny grey mineral has been used to make jewelry for hundreds of years. On Mars, grey hematite may help prove whether large amounts of liquid water ever flowed on Mars' surface. Where water was, life may have had a chance to thrive as well.

Hematite is made up of iron and oxygen-a type of iron oxide. It takes its name from the Greek word for "blood," and is a rusty color in powdered form. Fine-grained hematite helps gives Mars its characteristic red hue.

"Grey hematite is a mineral indicator of past water," says Crisp. "It is not always associated with water, but it often is." Deposits of grey hematite are typically found in places where there has been standing water or mineral hot springs, such as those in Yellowstone. The mineral can precipitate out of water and collect in layers at the bottom of a lake, spring, or other standing water. But hematite can also occur without water, as the result of volcanic activity.

Scientists have wanted to find out which of these processes created grey hematite on Mars since 1998, when Mars Global Surveyor spotted large concentrations of the mineral near the planet's equator. This discovery provided the first mineral evidence that Mars' history may have included water.

If all goes well, they'll get a close look at Mars' grey hematite when Opportunity, Spirit's rover twin, lands this week in an area rich in the grey mineral. To find out what helped produce the hematite - water or volcanic activity - they'll be examining both the form of the hematite and the company it is keeping.

"We want to know if the grains of hematite appear to be rounded and cemented together by the action of liquid water or if they're crystals that grew from a volcanic melt," says Crisp. "Is the hematite in layers, which would suggest that it was laid down by water, or in veins in the rock, which would be more characteristic of water having flowed through the rocks."

"The area where we are going has 10 to 15 percent grey hematite," Crisp says. "What are the other materials found with the hematite? Clays and carbonates would indicate there had been water in the area. If the area had been volcanic, you would expect to see other types of minerals like olivine and pyroxene."

"We're very interested to know if this region could have been like Yellowstone, with hot springs, so we'll be looking to see if there are other minerals in the area such as those at Yellowstone."

"Knowing just how the hematite on Mars was formed will help us characterize the past environment and determine whether that environment was favorable for life," says Crisp. "One big question, of course, is whether life ever started on Mars. This mission probably won't tell us that, but it may well lead to future mission that can answer that question."

In the meantime, Crisp wears her newly acquired hematite necklace for luck.

Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Related Links
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express
Mars News and Information at
Lunar Dreams and more

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Spirit Heading To 'Home Plate'
Pasadena CA (JPL) Jan 09, 2006
Last week Spirit completed robotic-arm work on "El Dorado." The rover used all three of its spectrometers plus the microscopic imager for readings over the New Year's weekend.

  • Boeing Selects Leader for Nuclear Space Systems Program
  • Boeing-Led Team to Study Nuclear-Powered Space Systems
  • Boeing To Build Space-borne Power Generator
  • New High-Purity Plutonium Sources Produced At Los Alamos

  • Smart-1 Ready For Payload Commissioning
  • SMART-1 Set For Payload Commissioning
  • SMART-1 Finally Escapes the Radiation Belts
  • SMART-1 Chalks Up Another 2K On The Long Way To The Moon

  • Best Laid Plans, Men and Machines
  • Fire Away, Sun and Stars! Shields to Protect Future Space Crews
  • President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program
  • NASA Announces New Headquarters Management Alignment

  • The Colorful Lives Of The Outer Planets
  • Getting Closer To The Lord Of The Rings
  • First Detection Of CO In Uranus
  • Pushing Out The Kuiper Belt

  • Finding JIMO: Jupiter's Icy Moon Orbiter
  • Europa: Frozen Ocean in Motion
  • Io: A Moon On Fire
  • Thirty Four Orbits Later Galileo Checks Out By Jove

  • Saturn To Ring In The New Year
  • Cassini's Huygens Science Teams Begin Final Science Planning
  • Huygens Team Calibrates Science and Mission Plans
  • Titan's Lakes Of Hydrocarbons Makes For Daily Smog Alert

  • Maxwell Makes Rover Chips Extra Hardy For Martian Hotzone
  • Probable Discovery Of A New, Supersolid, Phase Of Matter
  • Chemists Crack Secrets Of Nature's Super Glue
  • Navy Enlists Microbes To Cut Costs

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement