September 11th, 2018
NASA's curiosity riders have depicted Martian terrain that has an unrivaled variety of colors and textures on the Vera Rubin Ridge, a 250-kilometer wide look that forms a distinctive layer of Mount Sharp. The rover has explored this mardian mountain since its arrival in 2012.
One of four unique terrain on the Vera Rubin Ridge contains iron oxide mineral hematite, a type of rock that usually forms in water and keeps clues to the area's old environment. This makes it an ideal place to look for evidence that liquid water once flowed on the surface of the red planet.
About eight floors high lies the hill in front of a train that holds clay minerals.
Over a year after a mechanical problem, drilling successfully closed a new method that allowed drilling to resume earlier this year (2018). Before successful collection of drill samples last month Curiosity occurred twice extremely hard stones that it could not penetrate.
Since researchers have no chance to determine the hardness of the rock before drilling starts, they must choose test locations based on trained guesses.
Both hard and soft stones have been found on the Vera Rubin Ridge. A long edge is composed of very hard rock that is resistant to wind erosion, while an area below it consists of softer rocks that are vulnerable to such erosion.
"This hill is not this monolithic thing – it has two separate sections, each of which has a variety of colors. Some are visible to the eye, and even more appear when we look in near infrared, just beyond our Eyes can see. Some seem related to how hard the rocks are, "declared Curiosity Researcher Ashwin Vasavada of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
Rock with a reddish hue in the region seems to be
Vera Rubin Ridge was chosen for exploration of the rover after NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) discovered that the area had high hematite content.
Scientists are uncertain about variants in hematite within the regions of Vera Rubin Ridge may be the cause of the different hardness in the area's rocks.
Total samples will be pounded in powder form and studied by Curiosity s two science laboratories. Mission scientists hope that the laboratories' analyzes will point to a substance in the rocks that cures them and acts as a type of cement.
Vasaveda suspects that the rocks were cured and strengthened in Mars's ancient past through groundwater that flowed through the hill and transported this curing substance.
Curiosity will perform another two drillings at Vera Rubin Ridge in September before climbing Mount Sharp further.
The Mast Camera Mast Camera (MastCam) took a panoramic picture of Vera Rubin Ridge where Curiosity and its latest drilling site, named "Stoer" after a city of Scotland where lakebeds sediment revealed clues about early earth life, is visible.
Varied terrain on Vera Rubin Ridge is just the latest of several strange discoveries that the rover has made on Mount Sharp. In June, Curiosity s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrumented organic material in three billion years old sedimentary stones near the Mars surface. These molecules could have been produced by either biological or geological processes.
The amount of concentrations of organic compounds measured by SAM slightly more than 10 parts per million, significantly matched the amounts of these compounds detected in March meteorites on earth.
Data collected by Curiosity indicates that a water lake was found several years ago inside the Gale Crater, complete with the chemical building blocks and energy sources necessary for the presence of microbial life.
SAM also discovered seasonal variations in atmospheric methane, with levels that increase during the marbles and decrease during the winters. These variations may have both biological and / or geological origin.
On August 18, the rover cameras depicted a strange rock fragment on the Martian surface as its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument proved to be a
rover also monitored the global dust storm on Mars, which began in end of May and just now swinging.
Video with permission of NASA
<! Laurel Kornfeld
Laurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planet science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and received a Graduate Certificate of Science from Swinburne University's Astronomy Online Program. Her writings have been published online in the Atlantic, the guestbook of the Astronomy magazine, the UK space conference, the IAU General Assembly, the space reports and newsletters from different astronomical clubs. She is a member of Cranford, NJ-based amateurstronomer, Inc. Particularly interested in the outer solar system, Laurel gave a brief presentation at Great Planet Debate 2008, held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, MD. 19659036]