The Mars rover Spirit has found the most interesting and significant exposure of bedrock so far in its 13 months of Red Planet exploration.

The outcrop – dubbed Peace – is in the Columbia Hills which rise above the ancient lakebed of Gusev Crater.



The exciting feature of Peace for scientists is that it contains higher levels of sulphur than anything yet examined by Spirit. Other rocks encountered to date had sulphur minerals forming a surface crust, but little in the interior.



In contrast, Peace contains high levels of sulphur deep inside, says Ralf Gellert of the Max Planck Institute in Mainz, Germany. Because it is highly correlated with magnesium in the rock, it suggests the presence of magnesium sulphate, he says.



“This is probably the most interesting and important rock Spirit has examined,” says chief rover scientists, Steven Squyres at Cornell University, New York, US. “It gives us even more compelling evidence for water playing a major role in altering the rocks here.”



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