Clay is a big deal on Mars because in contact with water it often forms. Find clay, and you usually find water evidence. And Mars ‘ nature, history, and current water budget are all important to understand that planet, and if ever a life was supported. Recently evidence that water on the surface of Mars once existed discovered by Curiosity rover.
MSL Curiosity is currently inspecting clay rocks at Mt. Sharp. At Mt. Sharp, orbiters were the first to find proof of clay. When NASA chose Gale Crater as the landing site of MSL Curiosity, one of the goals was the clay inside the crater at Mt. Sharp. Now Curiosity has sampled two of the rocks in what NASA calls the ‘clay-bearing unit’ and the presence of clay has been confirmed.
In fact, the two rocks show the highest levels of clay found so far by Curiosity. The rocks are called “Aberlady” and “Kilmarie.” They are located at the bottom of Mt. Sharp, the primary goal of the mission.
Mt. Sharp rises above the crater floor 5.5 km (18,000 ft). Which means it is an accessible, layered Martian geology record. The wind has exposed its various layers over time, making them easy targets for the drill of Curiosity. Because of how they think it was formed, scientists are interested in Mt. Sharp, also called Aeolis Mons. Gale Crater is an ancient crater of the impact that was probably filled with water, and they believe that Mt. Sharp was formed over a period of two billion years as sediment was deposited at the lake’s bottom.
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It is possible that the whole crater was filled with sediment at one time. Which gradually eroded, leaving behind Mt. Sharp. There is some uncertainty about the timeline of the formation of Mt. Sharp, which is one of the things that MSL Curiosity hopes to reveal. In any case, Mt. Sharp itself appears to be an eroded sediment mountain. And as Curiosity continues its work, scientists can finally get a clearer picture of how it formed exactly.
The new findings of curiosity show that Gale Crater once had an abundance of water, as expected. But the details are still to be determined other than that. It seems that these clay-rich rocks formed at the bottom of a lake at the bottom of the mountain at the bottom. Water and sediment interact to form clays over geological periods.
Finding specific clay types at specific layers tells scientists about Martian water’s timeline. We know that there are different layers of minerals in the mountain. As mentioned above, the lower layers contain clays. But above that layers containing sulfur and above that layers containing minerals containing oxygen. The sulfur shows that the area has dried out or the water has become more acidic.
Gale crater also includes a river channel called the Gediz Vallis Channel, formed after the layers of clay and sulfur. That channel is also a piece of the puzzle, and the task of Curiosity is to keep going up Mt. Sharp. Sampling as it goes and filling in the picture of the geology and history of the mountain. We are going to learn something about Martian history by extension.
Curiosity will also provide us with a much more detailed view of the clay-bearing unit than we have been given by the orbiter. Orbital readings could not tell for sure whether the clay it sensed was in the mountain’s bedrock, or whether it was from eroded pebbles and rocks that eroded from the mountain’s upper layers and tumbled down to the crater’s floor.
Curiosity has clarified that with the discovery of clay in Aberlady and Kilmarlie, to some extent, but there is still much work to be done.
“Every layer of this mountain is a puzzle piece,” JPL Scientist Ashwin Vasavada’s Curiosity Project said. “They each have clues in Martian history to a different era.” Curiosity does a fine job of putting everything together. So, evidence that water on the surface of Mars once existed discovered by Curiosity rover is a huge achievement in our search for water on Planet Mars.