Rover hits 'a jackpot' in quest for signs of water on Mars
White veins of minerals coursing through rocks on the floor of Mars' Gale Crater are providing some of the strongest evidence yet that the rover Curiosity's landing site once was a wetter, warmer place.
The details are still fuzzy. But the composition of the minerals indicate that they precipitated out of water flowing through fissures in the rock, while large grains within the rocks themselves are rounded, suggesting that water might have dulled their sharp edges.
Yellowknife Bay, the rocky expanse Curiosity inhabits, “is literally shot through with these fractures,” said John Grotzinger, a geologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena., Calif., and the mission's chief scientist.
It features abundant, berry-shaped spherules that scientists said are sedimentary concretions formed in and worked over by water.
All together, “basically these rocks were saturated with water,” Grotzinger explained during a briefing this month outlining the rover's latest exploits.
Yellowknife Bay represents “a jackpot unit,” he said. Initially, researchers thought they might have to drive Curiosity up on the shoulders of Mt. Sharp, a towering summit in the middle of the crater, to find such a trove.
Curiosity, a one-ton geochemistry lab on wheels, landed on Mars in August. Its goal is to determine whether the crater at one time could have been hospitable for simple forms of organic life.
A layered, rock outcrop the team has named the Shaler Unit indicates a stream flowed through the area, shifting small sediment dunes on the stream bed in ways that formed the layers. The composition of the white minerals in rock veins is consistent with calcium sulfate, plus a fair bit of hydrogen. The relatively high levels of hydrogen suggest the minerals precipitated out of water flowing through the fissures.
The mineral-filled fissures looked similar to those found in rocks in the Sahara.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Gray wolf decision reversed
- Ghostly snailfish found at record depth
- FBI’s 2001 anthrax attack investigation questioned
- Traffic camera use upheld in Ohio
- Supreme Court won’t stop gay marriages in Florida
- NYC teenager a liar, not a penny stocks whiz worth $72M
- Traffic deaths down 3 percent
- Replacement part beamed up to space station
- Bush officials gave CIA wide latitude on interrogation tactics
- Study: At least 786 child abuse victims died despite being on protective services’ radar
- 8 American drug offenders granted clemency, early release