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The Mars rover Opportunity found a unique rock that indicates water may have once existed on the red planet. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell / ASU)

Was There Water on Mars?

Rover Opportunity finds new evidence of water on Mars

By Sara Goudarzi | October 5 , 2011
<p> <i>Opportunity</i> has been investigating the Martian surface since 2004. <br />(NASA / JPL / Cornell University) </p>

Opportunity has been investigating the Martian surface since 2004.
(NASA / JPL / Cornell University)

NASA’s rover Opportunity has found new evidence that water may have once existed on the planet Mars. The presence of ancient water is an indication that the planet could have supported life.

Opportunity discovered an ancient rock with high levels of elements zinc and bromine. An element is a substance made of just one type of atom. The presence of these elements suggests that the rock, which scientists have named Tisdale 2, was formed with water and heat.

OPPORTUNITY

The solar-powered Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, landed on Mars in 2004. Spirit stopped communicating with Earth in March 2010, a few months after it got stuck in a sand trap. But Opportunity has continued to search for and analyze Martian soil and rocks.

Last August, the golf-cart-size rover made it to the rim of a crater called Endeavour.

Endeavour is an impact crater, or a crater formed by the impact of a large body moving at high speed, like a meteor. Scientists estimate that the object that created the crater was about 14 miles across. Tisdale 2 is the first rock Opportunity has examined on this site. Because of this, scientists aren’t sure yet if Tisdale 2 is the only one of this type of rock or just one of a whole system of rocks formed by heat and water.

"Stay tuned,” says Raymond Arvidson, deputy principal investigator of the Mars Exploration Rovers, “[because] we have a new mission and expect to make yet more exciting discoveries about the Red Planet.”

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