This picture, obtained by the microscopic imager on NASA's Opportunity rover during sol 24, February 17 PST, shows soil clods exposed in the upper wall of the trench dug by Opportunity's right front wheel on sol 23. The clods were not exposed until the trench was made. The presence of soil clods implies weak bonding between individual soil grains. The chemical agent or mineral that causes the dirt to bind together into a clod, which scientists call the "bonding agent," is currently unknown. Moessbauer and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer measurements of this spot, planned for sol 25, might help explain the bonding, which would ultimately help the rover team understand how geological processes vary across the red planet. In any case, the bonds between soil grains here cannot be very strong because the wheel dug down through this layer with little trouble.


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