Join CNN’s Marvel Principle science e-newsletter. Discover the universe with information on fascinating discoveries, scientific developments and extra.
Within the foothills of a Martian mountain, NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered beautiful new proof of an historical lake within the type of rocks etched with the ripples of waves — and the telltale indicators appeared in an unlikely place.
The rover is traversing an space of Mars referred to as the “sulfate-bearing unit” that researchers beforehand thought would solely present proof of mere trickles of water, as scientists believed the rocks there fashioned because the floor of the purple planet was drying out. As a substitute, the rover discovered a few of the clearest proof but of historical waters.
“That is one of the best proof of water and waves that we’ve seen in your complete mission,” mentioned Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s mission scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a press release. “We climbed by hundreds of toes of lake deposits and by no means noticed proof like this — and now we discovered it in a spot we anticipated to be dry.”
The sulfate-bearing unit is a area beforehand recognized by the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter as containing salty mineral deposits simply beneath an 18,000-foot (5,500-meter) mountain referred to as Mount Sharp. Scientists contemplate the sulfate-bearing unit to be a location rife with clues about how and why Mars morphed from a watery planet into the frozen place it’s right this moment, and researchers have lengthy sought to discover the world in additional depth.
Although the area incorporates rocks that had been thought to have fashioned “when water was drying to a trickle,” in line with NASA, the brand new photos from Curiosity present proof of a shallow lake.
“Billions of years in the past, waves on the floor of a shallow lake stirred up sediment on the lake backside, over time creating rippled textures left in rock,” in line with a NASA information launch.
The wave-marked rocks had been discovered about one-half mile (800 meters) into Curiosity’s ascent of Mount Sharp. Because the rover climbed greater, it traveled over rocks that will have fashioned extra just lately. That’s why researchers didn’t anticipate to see such clear markers of a giant physique of water.
Particularly, the rocks had been found in what’s referred to as the Marker Band Valley, a zigzag formation of rocks that stands out towards the panorama, because of its darker coloring. The rover started exploring the Marker Band function — which was discovered to have skinny, arduous rocks protecting the floor is a scalelike sample — in 2022.
Curiosity has tried to extract samples from a few of the rocks, however they proved too arduous for the rover’s drill, in line with NASA. However scientists are hoping the automobile will come across some softer spots extra conducive to pattern assortment as its trek continues.
The Curiosity rover has been exploring the Martian floor for a couple of decade, and it’s been climbing the bottom of Mount Sharp since 2014. Scientists are significantly within the mountain as a result of its suspected previous — by which the landmark was surrounded by streams and lakes — might have been host to microbial life varieties. That’s, if any ever existed on Mars.