Whereas consideration has been centered on the Perseverance rover that landed on Mars final month, its predecessor Curiosity continues to discover the bottom of Mount Sharp on the crimson planet and remains to be making discoveries. Analysis printed at this time within the journal Geology reveals that Mars had drier and wetter eras earlier than drying up utterly about three billion years in the past.
“A major aim of the Curiosity mission was to review the transition between the liveable atmosphere of the previous, to the dry and chilly local weather that Mars has now. These rock layers recorded that change in nice element,” mentioned Roger Wiens, a coauthor on the paper and scientist at Los Alamos Nationwide Laboratory, the place he’s on the ChemCam crew. ChemCam is the rock-vaporizing laser that sits on the mast of the Curiosity rover and analyzes the chemical composition of martian rocks.
William Rapin, a researcher with the French Nationwide Centre for Scientific Analysis (CNRS), led the research.
Utilizing the long-range digicam on ChemCam to make detailed observations of the steep terrain of Mount Sharp, a crew together with Wiens and different researchers at Los Alamos found that the Martian local weather alternated between dry and wetter durations earlier than it went utterly dry. Spacecraft in orbit round Mars had beforehand offered clues concerning the mineral composition of the slopes of Mount Sharp. Now, ChemCam has efficiently made detailed observations of the sedimentary beds from the planet’s floor, revealing the circumstances underneath which they fashioned.
Shifting up by way of the terrain, Curiosity noticed that the sorts of mattress change drastically. Mendacity above the lake-deposited clays that kind the bottom of Mount Sharp, sandstone layers present buildings indicating their formation from wind-formed dunes, suggesting lengthy, dry local weather episodes. Larger up nonetheless, skinny alternating brittle and resistant beds are typical of river floodplain deposits, marking the return of wetter circumstances.
These modifications in terrain present that the local weather of Mars underwent a number of large-scale fluctuations between wetter and dryer durations, till the widely arid circumstances noticed at this time took maintain. Throughout its prolonged mission, Curiosity is scheduled to climb the foothills of Mount Sharp and drill into its varied beds for a more in-depth take a look at these fascinating supplies.
The ChemCam laser instrument makes use of an infrared-colored laser beam, which heats rock fragments to round 18,000 levels Fahrenheit (10,000 levels Celsius), vaporizing them. The plasma produced by this course of permits scientists to research the chemical and mineral composition of the rocks, which convey necessary details about the geological historical past of Mars. The instrument additionally has a high-resolution digicam. ChemCam is commanded alternately from Los Alamos in New Mexico and the French House Company in Toulouse, as a partnership between Los Alamos Nationwide Laboratory and the IRAP analysis middle. Each week, the operations change fingers between the 2 locations. Collectively, the ChemCam crew has printed over 100 scientific papers on its discoveries from greater than 850,000 laser zaps.
Picture: Mount Sharp ‘photobombs’ Mars Curiosity rover
W. Rapin et al, Alternating moist and dry depositional environments recorded within the stratigraphy of Mount Sharp at Gale crater, Mars, Geology (2021). DOI: 10.1130/G48519.1 , dx.doi.org/10.1130/G48519.1
New analysis reveals that Mars didn’t dry up abruptly (2021, April 8)
retrieved Eight April 2021
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