Martian stucco and more spherules: Opportunity rover examines interesting rock outcrops

Closeup view of Whitewater Lake rock outcrop, with its unusual surface texture, kind of like stucco or plaster of Paris. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Stuart Atkinson

The Opportunity rover has moved on a bit from Kirkwood, the previous rock outcrop with the new type of spherules in it that the scientists have taken so much interest in. It is now examining another odd-looking feature, a rather flat exposure of rock just a little to the north. Nicknamed Whitewater Lake, it is much lighter in colour than the surrounding rocks and soil and has a surface texture not seen before, sort of like stucco or plaster of Paris. Could it also be water or clay related? Only further analysis will hopefully provide some answers.

An enhanced and sharpened view of Whitewater Lake rock outcrop. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Stuart Atkinson
Another view of Whitewater Lake rock outcrop (original image). Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Next to Whitewater Lake is another interesting rock, nicknamed Errington, which is split into at least three large pieces and appears to be covered with the same tiny spherules first seen a bit farther south on the Kirkwood rock outcrop.

Errington rock, near the Whitewater Lake rock outcrop. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Stuart Atkinson

Is there a connection between these very different types of rock outcrops? They look so different but are so close together. Are they related to the clay deposits in the area? We should know more soon… Thanks again to Stuart Atkinson for use of his excellent mosaic images.

Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.