CalTech NASA JPL JPL CalTech
NASA Logo - Jet Propulsion Laboratory Follow this link to skip to the main content
   + View the NASA Portal

JPL Home Earth Solar System Stars & Galaxies Technology
Mars Exploration Rovers
Images Multimedia News Missions Events Kids Education Science & Research About JPL
At a Glance
Daily Updates
Flight Director Reports
News Releases
Features
Image Releases
Multimedia
Fact Sheet
Press Kit
Media Contacts
Link to MER Home Page

 Popular Images:
 + Raw Images
 + Artist's Concept
 + Mars Wallpapers

 Image Archives:
 + May 2011
 + April 2011
 + March 2011
 + February 2011
 + January 2011
 + December 2010
 + November 2010
 + October 2010
 + September 2010
 + August 2010
 + July 2010
 + June 2010
 + May 2010
 + April 2010
 + March 2010
 + February 2010
 + January 2010
 + December 2009
 + November 2009
 + October 2009
 + September 2009
 + August 2009
 + July 2009
 + June 2009
 + May 2009
 + April 2009
 + March 2009
 + February 2009
 + January 2009
 + December 2008
 + November 2008
 + October 2008
 + September 2008
 + August 2008
 + July 2008
 + June 2008
 + May 2008
 + April 2008
 + March 2008
 + February 2008
 + January 2008
 + December 2007
 + November 2007
 + October 2007
 + September 2007
 + August 2007
 + July 2007
 + June 2007
 + May 2007
 + April 2007
 + March 2007
 + February 2007
 + January 2007
 + December 2006
 + November 2006
 + October 2006
 + September 2006
 + August 2006
 + July 2006
 + June 2006
 + May 2006
 + April 2006
 + March 2006
 + February 2006
 + January 2006
 + December 2005
 + November 2005
 + October 2005
 + September 2005
 + August 2005
 + July 2005
 + June 2005
 + May 2005
 + April 2005
 + March 2005
 + February 2005
 + January 2005
 + December 2004
 + November 2004
 + October 2004
 + September 2004
 + August 2004
 + July 2004
 + June 2004
 + May 2004
 + April 2004
 + March 2004
 + February 2004
 + January 2004
 + 2003
 + 2002

 Site Tools:
 + Adobe Reader
 + Apple QuickTime
 + Macromedia Flash
 + RealPlayer
this surface records two of the most important and violent forces in the history of Mars -- volcanoes and wind.

Hardened Lava Meets Wind on Mars
2/2/06

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit used its microscopic imager to capture this spectacular, jagged mini-landscape on a rock called "GongGong." Measuring only 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) across, this surface records two of the most important and violent forces in the history of Mars -- volcanoes and wind.

GongGong formed billions of years ago in a seething, stirring mass of molten rock. It captured bubbles of gases that were trapped at great depth but had separated from the main body of lava as it rose to the surface. Like taffy being stretched and tumbled, the molten rock was deformed as it moved across an ancient Martian landscape. The tiny bubbles of gas were deformed as well, becoming elongated. When the molten lava solidified, the rock looked like a frozen sponge.

Far from finished with its life, the rock then withstood billions of years of pelting by small sand grains carried by Martian dust storms that sometimes blanketed the planet. The sand wore away the surface until, little by little, the delicate strands that enclosed the bubbles of gas were breached and the spiny texture we see today emerged.

Even now, wind continues to deposit sand and dust in the holes and crevices of the rock.

Similar rocks can be found on Earth where the same complex interplay of volcanoes and weathering occur, whether it be the pelting of rocks by sand grains in the Mojave desert or by ice crystals in the frigid Antarctic.

GongGong is one of a group of rocks studied by Spirit and informally named by the Athena Science Team to honor the Chinese New Year (the Year of the Dog). In Chinese mythology, GongGong was the god-king of water in the North Land. When he sacrificed his life to knock down Mount BuZhou, he defeated the bad Emperor in Heaven, freed the sun, moon and stars to go from east to west, and caused all the rivers in China to flow from west to east.

Spirit's microscopic imager took this image during on the rover's 736th day, or sol, of exploring Mars (Jan. 28, 2006). The rock lies in the "Inner Basin" between "Husband Hill" and "McCool Hill" in Gusev Crater. Spirit acquired the image while the rock was fully shadowed, with diffuse illumination mostly from the top in this view.



Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/USGS

+ Medium resolution version of this image
+ High resolution version of this image
+ Print this image and caption
Privacy / Copyrights FAQ Contact JPL Sitemap
FIRST GOV + Freedom of Information Act NASA Home Page
Site Manager:
Webmasters:
  Susan Watanabe
Tony Greicius, Martin Perez