The Mars Curiosity rover has found evidence of flowing water — perhaps billions of years ago — in the Gale crater it is traveling through, NASA scientists said on Thursday.
Scientists say that the crater may have had flowing water in it for perhaps thousands or millions of years, Wired.com
Several pieces of evidence attest to this hypothesis, but the key feature was a strange rock sticking out of the Martian regolith that Curiosity spotted two weeks ago.
The rock, nicknamed Hottah, “looked like someone came to the surface of Mars with a jackhammer,” John Grotzinger of Caltech, project scientist for the mission, said on Thursday at a NASA news conference.
He added that the rock wouldn’t look out of place as a slab of concrete in downtown Los Angeles, Wired.com reports.
Detailed observation of the rock showed that it was a composite, essentially a rock made of other rocks. The tiny rocks, called clasts, were embedded in the overall structure and appeared rounded, eroded after being transported by wind or water.
The rocks were too large to have been moved by wind, suggesting that flowing water was the cause for their roundness, Wired.com reports.
In another sandy light-colored rock that Curiosity passed, named Link, the rover spotted clasts that had fallen to the ground, creating a pile of stones that had been liberated from the rock.
Both Hottah and Link were made of “a different type of material, one we hadn’t seen on Mars before,” Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., said, according to Wired.com.
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