Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Those Weird 'Tubes' on Mars Probably Aren't Signs of Life





If you heard that NASA's Mars rover Curiosity just spotted signs of life on the Red Planet — well, don't get your hopes up. The odd tubular structures that Curiosity has been investigating lately were probably formed by crystal growth, not tiny burrowing creatures, mission team members said.

"When we looked at these things close up, they're linear, but they're not tubular in the sense of being cylinders; they're actually quite angular," said Curiosity mission scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "They have kind of a square or a parallelogram sort of cross section and form at angles to each other when there's multiple of them together," he told Space.com. "And all of that's pretty reminiscent of crystalline growth."

The Curiosity team suspects that the tube features are themselves crystals, or that crystals formed a mold in the rock that was later filled in by sedimentary material, Vasavada added. Both of these scenarios involve liquid water, which suggests that the area Curiosity is currently exploring was wet long ago.

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