Rocks can inform us loads a couple of planet. On Earth, the examine of geology has been round for a whole lot of years and has resulted in such scientific findings as the idea of plate tectonics and the invention of dinosaur fossils. Geology on Mars has not had as lengthy and storied a historical past, however with the rovers which have landed on the planet in the previous few many years, Martian geology has began to bloom. Curiosity, a type of rovers, has completed a very good job at documenting the rock formations in its neighborhood of Gale crater. Now researchers led by a staff at Imperial College London have revealed a paper utilizing knowledge from Curiosity that element a set of historical dunes on Mars that present some perception into the planet’s former habitability.
Sand dunes are a typical incidence on each Earth and Mars. On Earth they’re considered shifting options that actually change with the wind. On Mars, there may be so environmental little exercise that sand dunes are way more stationary and may remodel into rock.
That’s precisely what occurred to a sequence of sand dunes in Gale crater, which are actually often called the Stimson formation. These rocks which had been initially shaped as dunes overtop of the rocks deposited within the crater when it was a lake. They then stratified into clearly discernible layers subsequent to Mount Sharp, the best a part of Gale crater that wasn’t eroded away when it was stuffed with water.
One putting function of the stratification was that the dunes appeared to have been attributable to winds blowing in two totally different instructions. Particularly they indicated a function often called “cross-bedding” the place close by dunes pile on high of each other. Often this includes two dunes which are deposited by competing winds that try to put sand in several instructions.
These winds had been probably lively effectively after the lake mattress dried up and the setting turned way more arid. More than likely the crater wouldn’t have been very hospitable to life throughout the deposition of the dunes, and the winds carrying abrasive sand with them might need even scoured away proof of any earlier life that there was.
However all hope will not be misplaced for a doubtlessly beforehand inhabitable Gale crater. The solidified dunes solely make up part of the wall of Mount Sharp, and there are nonetheless different geological processes at work larger up the mountain. As researchers proceed to comb over the images despatched again from Curiosity they may proceed to contribute to the science of geology on Mars. Ultimately all of that new information will assist contribute to the reply of one of the crucial sought-after questions in area exploration – did life ever arise on Mars?
Be taught Extra:
ICL – Mars’ changing habitability recorded by ancient dune fields in Gale crater
JGR Planets – A Rock Record of Complex Aeolian Bedforms in a Hesperian Desert Landscape: The Stimson Formation as Exposed in the Murray Buttes, Gale Crater, Mars
UT – Curiosity Finds A Region of Ancient Dried Mud. It Could Have Been an Oasis Billions of Year Ago
A part of Gale Crater that’s nonetheless being explored by Curiosity
Credit score: NASA