by Dr. Ken Kremer, AAAP, Spaceflight Magazine & Universe TodayNASA’s Curiosity rover hit the science jackpot by discovering widespread further evidence of multiple episodes of water flowing over Mars billions of years ago when the planet was warmer and wetter, scientists announced at a media briefing in mid-January 2013. The watery evidence comes in the form of water bearing mineral veins, cross-bedded layering, nodules and spherical sedimentary concretions.
Researchers said Curiosity found lots of evidence for mineral veins inside fractured rocks littering the highly diverse Martian terrain, using her 10 science instruments. Veins form when liquid water circulates through fractures and deposits minerals, gradually filling the insides of the fractured rocks over time.
Sometime in late January/early February, the rover will carry out history’s first ever drilling inside a Martian rock. A powdered sample will then be delivered to the robots duo of analytical chemistry labs (CheMin & SAM) to determine its elemental composition and ascertain whether organic molecules are present.
The drill target area is named “John Klein” outcrop, in tribute to the deputy project manager for Curiosity at JPL who passed away in 2011. See our new Sol 157 photo mosaic herein by Ken Kremer & Marco Di Lorenzo showing the exact spot where Curiosity has driven to drill directly into the John Klein outcrop and the mineral veins.
The white colored veins were discovered using the cameras and ChemCam laser firing spectrometer where Curiosity is currently investigating around a shallow basin called Yellowknife Bay. ChemCam found elevated levels of calcium, sulfur and hydrogen. Hydrogen is indicative of water. The mineral veins are probably comprised of calcium sulfate, which exists in several hydrated (water bearing) forms.
The newly found veins appear quite similar to analogous veins discovered in late 2011 by NASA’s Opportunity rover, Curiosity’s older sister, inside Endeavour crater and nearly on the opposite side of Mars. See my Opportunity vein mosaic featured at APOD on Dec. 11, 2011.
Read Ken’s Universe Today story and see his Sol 132 Curiosity photo mosaic featured at NBC News.
Outreach by Ken Kremer: “Curiosity and the Search for Life on Mars – (in 3-D)” – The Pines: Whiting, NJ, Feb. 12, 7 PM and Washington Crossing State Park, Nature Center: Titusville, NJ, April 28, 1:30 PM.