Thursday, September 27, 2012

Curiosity finds traces of ancient river on Mars

Mars rover Curiosity has again reported a couple of interesting findings back to earth. Looking at one of its latest images, it appears that there might have been rivers with flowing water on the Red Planet. The picture shows a rocky area that looks very much like earth, which allows for comparison. And it just may be that we are looking at a prehistoric river here, further reinforcing the evidence that Mars once had liquid water flowing on its surface. It is not the first time Curiosity has shown us images.

The picture taken on Mars seems to reveal erosion, typical of how rivers of flowing water carve rocky outcrops. Scientists have already analysed the pictures, and found that in order to create the observed carvings, the water would have to flow with a speed of about a meter per second. Such shapes would not have been formed by wind, as the resulting pieces of gravel are too big to be moved by air alone. NASA found two eroded rocky outcrops, named Hottah and Link.

In order to learn more about how these ancient rivers formed, scientists will attempt to analyse which chemical elements are present in the rocks. Perhaps it will also help to analyse whether such sites would have been suitable for microbial life, which is, of course, be the ultimate goal of Curiosity's trip on Mars.

Below are a few of the pictures shot by Curiosity, as it was examining the stream bed. NASA has artificially enhanced the colours, in order to aid with the analysis.
A picture of the stream bed.
Left: Mars. Right: earth

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