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Thu Jun 13, 2019, 01:42 AM

Curiosity confirms clay deposits on slopes of Mount Sharp

31 May 2019

A selfie captured by the Curiosity Mars rover on 12 May is made up of 57 images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager camera on the end of the vehicle’s robot arm. Two recent drill holes, known as Aberlady and Kilmarie, are visible just in front of the rover at lower left. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has confirmed the presence of clay deposits on the slopes of Mount Sharp where orbiting spacecraft first detected their presence. Curiosity recently drilled and collected two samples from rock formations known as Aberlady and Kilmarie showing the highest amounts of clay minerals yet detected by the rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument, or CheMin.

Both drill targets are visible in a self portrait of Curiosity assembled from 57 images taken taken on 12 May, the rover’s 2,405th day, or sol, on Mars.

Clay often forms in the presence of water – a key ingredient for the evolution of life as it is known on Earth – and Curiosity’s latest findings add more evidence that a significant amount of water once pooled and flowed in Gale Crater. While the details remain a subject of debate, it’s likely that rocks in the area Curiosity is exploring originally formed as layers of mud in ancient lakes.

As Curiosity climbs higher up the slopes of Mount Sharp, it is expected to move into younger regions with geology reflecting an environmental change to a drier climate. How Mars transitioned from a warmer, wetter world into the cold, arid planet seen today is a major area of interest to planetary scientists.


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