As the rover continued to climb Mount Sharp, distinctive bench-like rock formations were found.
It has been 3,000 days of Mars, or suns, since Curiosity touched Mars on August 6, 2012, and the rover continues to make new discoveries during its gradual ascent up Mount Sharp, the 3 kilometer high (5 kilometer high) mountain, the has been exploring since 2014. Geologists were fascinated by seeing a series of rock “benches” in the latest panorama from the mission.
Sew together from 122 photos taken on November 18, 2020, the mission’s 2,946. sun, the panorama was captured by the Mast Camera or Mastcam, which serves as the rover’s main “eyes”. Towards the center of the panorama is the floor of Gale Crater, the 96-kilometer-wide (154-kilometer-wide) bowl that Mount Sharp sits inside. On the horizon is the northern crater rim. To the right is the upper part of Mount Sharp, which has rock layers formed by lakes and streams billions of years ago.
The curved rock terraces that define the area can be formed when there are harder and softer layers of rock on a slope. As the softer layers erode, the harder layers form small rocks, leaving behind bench-like formations. They can also form during a landslide when large, curved rock slabs slide downhill. Curiosity’s team has seen benches before in Gale Crater, but rarely constitutes such a scenic grouping of steps.
“Our science team is excited to find out how they formed and what they mean for the ancient environment of Gale,” said Curiosity project researcher Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, who built and manages the rover.
But don’t expect a rover that is so busy to be able to: Soon after taking the new panorama, it was off for higher terrain. This year, the rover has driven over a clay-bearing region called “Glen Torridon.” After making a pit stop at a place nicknamed “Mary Anning”, it continues towards the next large layer, called “the sulfate bearing unit.”
Curiosity takes selfie with ‘Mary Anning’ on the red planet
Citation: Curiosity rover reaches its 3,000th day on Mars (2021, January 12) retrieved January 12, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-01-curiosity-rover-3000th-day-mars.html
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