On Mars, Curiosity takes on strange rocky climates

Curiosity may no longer be expensive to NASA and the general public, but it continues to be an active contributor to Mars science.

Even if the Endurance has a tendency to steal the show since landing on Mars, the Curiosity rover continues to be useful away from cameras. He used to take a beautiful photograph of a stone structure that looked beautiful because it was a funny little flower; This time, the robot flushes a pair of strange columns that look like sticks.

Their shape is shocking in this scene where the built structures are unique; it is almost like a liquid that is immediately solidified in the vacuum of space. Some might also see some sort of fossilized plant there, or even an alien tentacle coming out of the dust. But the real explanation is a bit less exciting.

The Martian equivalent of hoodoos?

According to the researchers, this is probably a small equivalent of the hoodoos that exist on Earth. These are natural stone columns with a particularity that can be overcome by a kind of cover composed of a different stone. It is better known than in Turkey, but it is also found in France, especially near the Alps or the Queyras.

All the terrestrial environments in which they are found have one thing in common: there are abundant sedimentary rocks. These are friable and relatively fragile rocks formed by the accumulation of deposits resulting from erosion.

Under certain conditions, these rocks can be sandwiched and glued between other layers of denser, erosion resistant rock. For centuries, different points on the earth were therefore not planned at the same speed; water and air will absorb into small spaces, and over time they will begin to dig furrows in the most ruined rock.

This results in the snowball effect: this sweep digs passages that gradually become passages through which water can flow. This led to more significant erosion leaving only a few relatively vertical structures, somewhat like figurines whose mold had already melted.

Turkey is full of extremely impressive fairy chimneys, both for geologists and for walkers. Those on Mars are smaller, but at least as interesting. © Fe3Al2Si3O12 – Wikimedia Commons

Direct evidence of the liquid history of Mars

This is not the first time Curiosity has seen structures likely formed as a result of such a process. The “flowers” ​​recently found on the rover are sedimentary structures as well. So are piles of small rocky marbles torn from the top by erosion that NASA kindly calls “blueberries.”

All of this is of particular interest to researchers; almost indisputable evidence that there really is water in the light of the red planet. It echoes the findings of Endurance, whose work allowed NASA to confirm that Jezero Crater is indeed a dry lake (see our article).

However, on Earth, these sedimentary rocks formed by the movements of fluids are all potential vessels that can hide signs of a past life. So NASA is optimistic that there are signs of hypothetical Martian life nearby.

By analyzing these rocks and their surroundings through various rovers such as Curiosity or Perseverance, NASA therefore hopes to see geological signs of the planet’s past. Thus he will be able to try to answer the eternal question of life on Mars.

We are also in the middle of an exciting phase at this level. Sustainability now explores the delta at the edge of the Jezero crater where it landed last year (see our article). This is it the main goal of his mission, because a number of conditions could possibly involve the appearance of a life form as we know it to be encountered there. It is therefore advised to remain alert, as it is excluded that NASA will make a historic announcement in the coming months.

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