I’m already way late on the martian blueberry game when I decided to sit down and draw this continuation of the Martian Chronicles*, which references last month’s unceremonious upstaging of the Curiosity rover by its older brother (8 1/2 years now!) Opportunity.
The short story, years ago, when Opportunity first landed, it found the ground scattered with iron-rich spherules (nicknamed “blueberries” from the false color photo that NASA released, in which they were tinted blue). These sort of mineral formations aren’t all that unusual. Moqui marbles are the Earth analog, and form when water permeates sedimentary rock. So you can imagine why NASA is excited about these objects and the prospects of Mars’ watery past.
Flash forward to September, 2012, when Opportunity found a rocky outcropping with countless spherules still embedded in it—a blueberry muffin, what have you. Similar to the remains of fossilized Horn Coral I discussed a while back, the spherules erode much slower than the surrounding rock, which causes them to pop out as their sedimentary birthing grounds are worn away by wind and sand.
Now, as I said, I’m way late on this. So of course, in the middle of drawing my comic about Opportunity still making discoveries almost 9 years after it landed while Curiosity trundles around in the dirt, Wired goes and ruins it all. Thought blueberries were cool? Well move over, there’s a new rock in town. Curiosity just found a type of rock that hasn’t been seen on Mars before, and they’ve already been drilling, X-raying, and super-laser-pew-pew blasting it to find out more. The rock, named “Jake Matijevic” (because why not?) differs in composition from what is expected on the red planet, and is believed to have been pushed up in an ancient magma flow.
This is good news, because the only** other big thing Curiosity had going for it was that bit of mystery plastic. In all seriousness, it’s exciting that there’s so much martian history just strewn about all over the place, and it can only get better as Curiosity begins probing the layers of strata on Mount Sharp.
Oh, and check out some of the other Martian Saga* comics:
*Not sure what to call these things.