Clay is a huge offer on Mars due to the fact that it frequently forms in contact with water. Discover clay, and you have actually typically discovered proof of water. And the nature, history, and present water budget plan on Mars are very important to comprehending that world, and if it ever supported life.

Today, MSL Interest is at Mt. Sharp examining rocks for clay. Orbiters were the very first to discover proof of clay at Mt. Sharp. When NASA picked Wind Crater as MSL Interest’s landing website, the clay at Mt. Sharp inside the crater was among the goals. Now Interest has actually tested 2 of the rocks in what NASA’s calling the ‘clay-bearing system’ and they have actually verified the existence of clay.

In truth, the 2 rocks reveal the greatest concentrations of clay that Interest has actually discovered up until now. The rocks are called “Aberlady” and “Kilmarie.” They lie at the lower part of Mt. Sharp, which is the objective’s main goal.

An oblique image of Mt. Sharp inside Gale Crater on Mars. The yellow ellipse is Curiosity's landing spot. Image Credit: NASA/JPL
An oblique picture of Mt. Sharp inside Wind Crater on Mars. The yellow ellipse is Interest’s landing area. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

Mt. Sharp increases 5.5 km (18,000 ft.) above the crater flooring, indicating it is an available, layered record of Martian geology. Gradually, wind has actually exposed its various layers, making them simple targets for Interest’s drill

Researchers have an interest in Mt. Sharp, likewise called Aeolis Mons, due to the fact that of how they believe it formed. Wind Crater is an ancient effect crater that was most likely filled with water, and they believe that Mt. Sharp formed over a period of 2 billion years, as sediment was transferred at the bottom of the lake. It’s possible that at one time the whole crater was filled with sediment, which slowly wore down, leaving Mt. Sharp behind.

There’s some unpredictability around the timeline of Mt. Sharp’s development, which is among the important things MSL Interest wants to reveal. In any case, Mt. Sharp itself seems a deteriorated mountain of sediment, and as Interest continues its work, researchers might lastly get a clearer photo of how precisely it formed.

A coloured, annotated map of Mt. Sharp and a proposed path through the various areas researchers wish to check out with MSL Interest. Presently, the rover is checking out the Clay-Bearing System. The objective is to check out all these areas to discover how Mars dried up in time, and how that might have impacted its capability to support life. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/ Univ. of Arizona/JHUAPL/MSSS/ USGS Astrogeology Science Center

Interest’s brand-new findings reveal that there was as soon as an abundance of water in Wind Crater, as anticipated. However besides that, the information are still to be figured out. It appears that these clay-rich rocks at the lower series of the mountain formed as sediment at the bottom of a lake. Over geological period, water and sediment communicate to form clays.

Finding particular kinds of clays at particular layers informs researchers about the timeline of Martian water. We understand that the mountain has various layers consisting of various minerals. As discussed, the lower layers include clays, however above that are layers consisting of sulfur, and above that are layers consisting of oxygen-bearing minerals. The sulfur suggests that the location dried, or the water ended up being more acidic.

Wind crater likewise includes a river channel called Gediz Vallis Channel, which formed after the clay and sulfur layers. That channel is likewise a piece of the puzzle, and Interest’s job is to continue its method up Mt. Sharp, tasting as it goes, and fill in the photo of the mountain’s geology and history. By extension, we’ll discover something about Martian history.

Layers at the base of Mt. Sharp. These noticeable layers in Wind Crater reveal the chapters of the geological history of Mars in this image from NASA’s Interest rover. The image reveals the base of Mount Sharp, the rover’s ultimate science location, and was taken with Interest’s Mast Cam on Aug. 23,2012 Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Interest will likewise offer us a a lot more in-depth view of the clay-bearing system than orbiter’s offered us. Orbital readings could not state for sure if the clay it picked up remained in the bedrock of the mountain, or if it was from deteriorated pebbles and rocks that had actually deteriorated out of the upper layers of the mountain and toppled down to the flooring of the crater. Interest has actually clarified that to some degree, with the discovery of clay in Aberlady and Kilmarlie, however there’s still great deals of work to do.

” Each layer of this mountain is a puzzle piece,” stated Interest Task Researcher Ashwin Vasavada of JPL. “They each hold hints to a various period in Martian history.”

Interest is doing a great task of piecing everything together.