Flowers on Mars? Photo of strange growth taken by NASA rover likely not alien life

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There’s still no extraterrestrial life growing on Mars, despite some chatter around a fascinating photo snapped on our planetary neighbor. NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity captured an intriguing image of a bloom-like entity on the Red Planet, but scientists say it’s no alien flower or plant.

Curiosity acquired the picture using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, on February 24. However, hopes of a flower garden are nothing more than fantasy. The coral-like structure – smaller than a penny — is believed to be a so-called diagenetic feature formed after sediment first was deposited.

Abigail Fraeman, Curiosity Mars rover Deputy Project Scientist, tweeted about the photo. “A beautiful new microscopic image from Mars Curiosity shows teeny, tiny delicate structures that formed by mineral precipitating from water,” she wrote. “We’ve seen structures like these before, most prominently all the way back at Pahrump Hills. There, the features were made of salts called sulfates.”

The Mars Hand Lens Imager is the rover’s version of the magnifying hand lens that geologists usually carry with them into the field. Its job is to capture close-up images to reveal the minerals and textures in rock surfaces. The device is capable of microscopic imaging of minerals, textures and structures in rocks and soil at scales smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

South West News Service writer Dean Murray contributed to this report.

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