The strange Martian ‘newberries’ of Meridiani

Some of the "newberries" as seen by Opportunity on sol 3207. Click for larger view. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

Some of the “newberries” as seen by the Microscopic Imager on Opportunity on sol 3207. Click for larger view. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

With all of the attention that Curiosity has been getting, we might almost forget sometimes that there is still another rover elsewhere on the planet, Opportunity, which is still going strong – in its ninth year now!

One of the most interesting discoveries from Opportunity has been the “blueberries” – those tiny, round bb-like things that are spread out all over the landscape. The first ones found were determined to be composed primarily of hematite and are thought to be a type of concretion, which are common on Earth and require liquid water to form.

A Pancam image from sol 3212 showing the "newberries" covering slabs of bedrock. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

A Pancam image from sol 3212 showing the “newberries” covering slabs of bedrock. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

More recently, as Opportunity continues to explore the rim of the huge Endeavour crater, another type of “berry” has been found. These ones have been nicknamed “newberries” and resemble the previous blueberries in appearance, but according to analysis done by the rover so far, are not composed of hematite and have a different internal structure.

They may also be a different kind of concretion, they may have formed during the impact that created Endeavour as little globules of melted rock that later solidified, or they might be accretionary lapilli from volcanic eruptions. There are other possibilities, too, but only further study will help understand their origin.

They are strange little things, though, and some recent Microscopic Imager photos show them in great detail, sticking out from the rocks, often on little “stems” which have also been seen before. Another Martian puzzle to scratch our heads over…

Thoughts? Leave a comment below!

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