University of Utah geologists say marble-shaped rocks known as concretions from Utah (above) formed millions of years ago in groundwater-soaked rocks, providing clues to the origin of similar concretions or so-called "blueberries" (below) discovered on Mars by NASA’s Opportunity rover. The Utah concretions shown on the left range in diameter from one twenty-fifth of an inch to 2 inches, while the Martian versions on the right all measure less than one-fifth of an inch in diameter. (Scale of photos is different.)
Credit: Upper image by Marjorie Chan and Brenda Beitler, University of Utah.
Lower image by NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Cornell University.
Marble-like rocks known as hematite concretions litter the surface of Navajo sandstone at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.
Credit: Brenda Beitler, University of Utah
The rocks accumulated after softer surrounding sandstone eroded away. They are similar to the so-called "blueberries" found on Mars by NASAs Opportunity rover.
Even before marble-shaped pebbles nicknamed “blueberries” were discovered on Mars by the Opportunity rover, University of Utah geologists studied similar rocks in Utah’s national parks and predicted such stones would be found on the Red Planet.
In a study published in the June 17 issue of the journal Nature, the Utah researchers suggest both the Martian and Utah rocks – known as hematite concretions – formed underground when minerals precipitated from flowing groundwater.
“We came up with the ‘recipe’ for blueberries,” says Marjorie Chan, chair and professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah. “Before Opportunity landed, we thought there might be hematite concretions on Mars. That was based on our study of hematite-rich regions of southern Utah, where hematite balls are found in national parks and have long been a geological oddity that shows up in many rock shops.”
Lee Siegel | University of Utah
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