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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Meridiani Not an Ocean?

Olympia Outcrop on Erebus Crater, viewed by Opportunity.
Olympia Outcrop on Erebus Crater, viewed by Opportunity.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell
Two new scientific papers based on the Meridiani Planum data returned by Opportunity have cast doubt on the ocean theory for the formation of the rock structures observed there. One, written by researchers at the University of Colorado, postulates a massive volcanic eruption, and the other, written by researchers at Arizona State University, states that a meteorite impact could explain the evidence available.

The ocean theory, put forth by Dr. Steven Squyres, principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rovers, is intriguing because it opened the possibility of life once existing on the planum, and Squyres is standing by his theory. "There's no question there were standing bodies of water at the surface," he maintains. He believes that data from Endurance Crater, which was published only recently, has more evidence to support his theory. Still, the new theories demonstrate just how difficult it is to do science through remote control, millions of miles away, and how difficult it is to determine events billions of years ago.

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- posted by Brian @ 11:19 EST