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Purple Rocks Spotted on Mars -- What Does It Mean?

Jan 02, 2017 09:42 PM EST
First Color Pictures Of Mars Rover Released
NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover captured an image of purple rocks on the surface of the red planet. Could it mean there was once microbial life on the red planet?
(Photo : NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory/ Cornell University via Getty Images)

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover is currently studying the areas on Mount Sharp on the surface of the red planet. During the course of the study, the rover has already transmitted information from Mars to Earth. The most recent is the discovery of purple rocks on Mars -- could it mean there was once microbial life on the red planet?

To capture the image, the Mars Curiosity rover used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) on board. Some of the rocks from the recent image appeared to be purple in hue. The photo was taken last December when the rover was in the lower Mount Sharp region.

The image proves that there is a variation in color when it comes to Martian rocks. Although surprising, this is not the first time that purple-hued rocks were spotted on the red planet. The color could be attributed to the compound "hematite" detected by the rover's Chemical and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. Scientists believe that the winds prohibit sand to engulf rocks; thus, showing its true hue for the rover to photograph.

The image in the discussion was taken on Nov. 10, 2016. "The scene is presented with a color adjustment that approximates white balancing, to resemble how the rocks and sand would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth," a NASA official said in a press release. "Sunlight on Mars is tinged by the dusty atmosphere and this adjustment helps geologists recognize color patterns they are familiar with on Earth."

Aside from the purple-hued rocks, there were other colored rocks spotted like the orange-hued near the upper portion of Murray buttes. The rover is expected to travel further during the mission and in turn, might be able to produce more evidence of color variations in Martian rocks.

Mount Sharp is an interesting point for NASA scientists. It is located about 3 miles from the center of the Gale Crater where the rover landed in 2012, according to

The color is indeed surprising, as Mars usually appears red when viewed from the Earth. But looks are deceiving as they say and even the red planet has other colors such as purple on its surface. However, further study and analysis should be performed in order to confirm if the purple rocks are proof of ancient microbial life on the red planet.

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