If the study of nature has taught us anything, it's that we'll always be playing catch up to the vast and never-ending list of out-of-this-world elements on planet Earth. More often than not, these natural beauties lead to many questions about their origin - and the Moqui Marbles of Utah are no exception.
The stones (pronounced "mo-key") are made of a sandstone center shielded by an outer later of hematite, a form of iron ore. Despite their complex structure, these small marbles can be about the size of their toy counterpart or even as large as eight inches across. And as if their geological components weren't interesting enough, they're largely found in some of the United States' most jaw-dropping natural parks, including the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Zion National Park. But after coming to terms with the beauty and rarity of Moqui Marbles, the question remains: what is the story behind them?
Well, that all starts with the Moqui Indians. The Moqui tribe also referred to them as Moqui balls, Thunderballs, or Shaman Stones, and they played an important part in their culture since their discovery. On the flip side, these unique two-tiered stones were also found on planet Mars back in 2005, thanks to one of the Opportunity Rover's explorations missions. But for the scientists back in Utah, this didn't come as much of a surprise, considering that there were similar environmental conditions in the Navajo Sandstone Formation and in Outerspace. But the real difference was on the inside: planet Earth's Moquis were mainly composed of the sandstone core, whereas the marbles on Mars were pure iron oxide, known as rust. And as the scientists excitedly pointed out, the existence of rust could suggest the presence of water on Mars and therefore, the possibility of life.
Back on Earth, these small but mighty stones have been linked to mystical properties for countless cultures, only adding to their mysterious reputation. From fertility powers to extra-terrestrial communication devices, the Moqui stones are shrouded in wonder and will continue to play an important role in geological studies for generations to come. Stay tuned for more mysterious stories from the world of science...