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Curiosity discovered the mom seam of clay on the floor of Mars

Clay is a giant drawback on Mars as a result of it usually varieties on contact with water. Discover clay and you’ve got normally discovered traces of water. And nature, historical past, and the present water steadiness on Mars are all vital to understanding this planet and, in that case, supporting life.

Proper now, MSL Curiosity is at Mt. Sharp inspecting rocks on the lookout for clay. The orbiters had been the primary to search out traces of clay at Mt. Tranchant. When NASA selected Gale Crater because the touchdown website of MSL Curiosity, the clay at Mt. One of many targets was to be sharp contained in the crater. Curiosity has now sampled two of the rocks from what NASA has known as "the unit containing clay" and confirmed the presence of clay.

The truth is, each rocks have the very best clay concentrations that Curiosity has discovered to date. The rocks are known as "Aberlady" and "Kilmarie". They’re positioned within the decrease a part of the mount. Sharp, which is the primary goal of the mission.

An indirect picture of Mt. Sharp contained in the crater Gale on Mars. The yellow ellipse is the touchdown level of Curiosity. Picture credit score: NASA / JPL

Sharp climbs 5.5 km above the crater flooring, making it an accessible layered file of Martian geology. Over time, the wind uncovered its numerous layers, making them straightforward targets for the Curiosity train.

Scientists are concerned with Mt. Sharp, additionally known as Aeolis Mons, due to the best way it was created. Gale Crater is an previous crater of affect that was most likely stuffed with water, they usually assume that Mount. It has shaped over a interval of two billion years, sediments have settled on the backside of the lake. It’s attainable that in some unspecified time in the future the crater was stuffed with sediment that regularly eroded, leaving Mount Sharp behind.

There’s some uncertainty across the timeline of Mt. Sharp's coaching, which is likely one of the issues that MSL Curiosity hopes to find. In any case, the mount. Sharp itself seems to be an eroded mountain of sediment and, as Curiosity continues its work, scientists could lastly have a extra correct concept of ​​how precisely it’s shaped.

A colourful and annotated map of Mt. Sharp and a proposed route within the completely different areas that scientists want to discover with MSL Curiosity. At the moment, the rover explores the unity of clay. The purpose is to discover all these areas to grasp how Mars has dried up over time and the way that might have affected its skill to assist life. Picture Credit score: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ESA / Univ. of Arizona Science Astrogeology / JHUAPL / MSSS / USGS

New discoveries at Curiosity present that there was as soon as an abundance of water within the crater of Gale, as anticipated. However except for that, the main points stay to be decided. It seems that these clay-rich rocks within the decrease a part of the mountain have shaped sediments on the backside of a lake. Over geological intervals, water and sediments work together to type clays.

Trying to find particular forms of clays on particular layers informs scientists of the chronology of Martian water. We all know that the mountain has completely different layers containing completely different minerals. As talked about, the decrease layers comprise clays, however above are layers containing sulfur, and above, layers containing minerals containing oxygen. Sulfur signifies that the world has dried out or that the water has change into extra acidic.

The Gale crater additionally accommodates a river channel known as Gediz Vallis Channel, which shaped after the layers of clay and sulfur. This channel can also be a chunk of the puzzle and the duty of Curiosity is to proceed its option to Mt. Take pleasure in samples as you go and full the image of the geology and historical past of the mountain. By extension, we are going to be taught one thing about Martian historical past.

Layers on the base of Mt. Tranchant. These seen layers within the Gale crater present the chapters of Mars' geological historical past illustrated by this picture of NASA's Curiosity robotic. The picture reveals the bottom of Mount Sharp, the ultimate scientific vacation spot of the rover, and was taken with the Curiosity mast digital camera on August 23, 2012. Picture: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS.

Curiosity may even give us a way more detailed view of the unit containing clay than that given by the orbiter. The orbital readings didn’t conclusively decide whether or not the clay he had detected was within the rock of the mountain, or whether or not it was pebbles and eroded rocks that had eroded from the higher layers of the rock. the mountain and collapsed to the ground of the crater. Curiosity has clarified this to some extent, with the invention of clay in Aberlady and Kilmarlie, however there’s nonetheless a lot work to be achieved.

"Each layer of this mountain is a puzzle," mentioned Ashwin Vasavada, scientific lead for the Curiosity challenge at JPL. "They every maintain clues a few completely different period of Martian historical past."

Curiosity does an excellent job of rebuilding all the pieces.

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