Amazing Flaky Martian Rocks Were Formed in a Stream or a Small Pond
In search of hints about Mars' history and potential proof that it once hosted life, NASA's Curiosity rover has been exploring the Gale Crater since 2012
The lower levels of Mount Sharp, a transitional zone between a clay-rich region and a sulfate-filled region, have been the focus of this search for the past year (a type of mineral salt)
The transition zone between these regions also has scientific relevance and can provide information about Mars' warm, wet history.
In other words, research into this area could record the significant climatic change that occurred on Mars billions of years ago.
For instance, the geology of this area is distinctive and includes clay minerals that resemble flaky layers of sedimentary rock
The mission scientific teams were extremely excited when Curiosity recently took an image of one in particular, "The Prow."
When water was still flowing into the Gale Crater, silt was deposited near the foot of Mount Sharp, forming these structures
It seemed likely that the hill further up the mountain was covered with wind-blown dunes that eventually turned into granite.
The flaky layers developed between them, presumably as a result of tiny ponds or streams that woven them throughout the sand dunes.
Less clay is being found in the transition zone as the rover ascends Mount Sharp, and more sulfate-rich rock is being found.
To understand more about the shifting mineral makeup of these rocks, the rover will soon drill its final sample from this zone and study them.
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