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Is it a marble or granite kitchen counter? Nah, the surface is too rough.
Maybe it’s a modern abstract painting that we can find hanging in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Nah, it has too much style and depth. Abstract art is much more shallow and empty of content.
Could it be a close-up of a just-opened container of berry-vanilla ice cream, the different flavors swirling and intertwined to enhance the eating experience? No, somehow it looks too gritty for ice cream.
No, what we are looking at is close-up of exposed bedrock in an area on Mars called Meridiani Planum. From the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter website:
The Opportunity rover has spent 13 years exploring a small region of Meridiani Planum which has a rather ordinary appearance.
Other portions of Meridiani are much more interesting, with well-exposed layered bedrock eroded into strange patterns.
Meridanii Planum is located on the equator due east of the giant canyons of Valles Marineris. It is a subsection region inside Arabia Terra, the largest of the transition zones between the lower elevation vast plains of the northern hemisphere and the higher elevation crater southern highlands.
The black cross in the image to the right shows where this picture was taken relative to the area that Opportunity has been exploring. Unfortunately, I do not have a scale for the image, but the difference in longitude between the image above and the area of Opportunity’s travels is about 10 degrees, at the equator. I searched the web but was unable to find a quick way to convert this to miles. Hopefully some of my very educated readers can figure it out.
They picked Opportunity’s landing site for its relatively flat terrain to ease the rover’s travels. Yet, in that same region is weird and very inexplicable geology as shown above.
Mars is a big place. It is also an alien place. Figuring out its geology will take several lifetimes of geologists, living on the planet.