NASA has new evidence of an ancient flowing stream on Mars thanks to the Curiosity rover. Until now, scientists could only speculate about what caused the channels left on Mar’s surface. New images sent back by Curiosity show gravel that was once part an ancient stream according to scientists at NASA.
Below is a rock outcrop called Link on the Martian surface. NASA says that Link has characteristics that are consistent with rock formed by water deposits.
The black oval indicates the Curiosity’s targeted landing area for the so called “landing ellipse” mission. The cross near the center is Curiosity’s actual landing site. The red areas of the image indicate higher elevations and blue the lower elevations.
Below is a comparison of the Link outcrop of rocks on Mars with similar rocks on Earth. The Earth half of the image shows a typical example of sedimentary conglomerate formed of gravel fragments. The Martian Link region features rounded gravel fragments, or clasts, up to a couple inches within the rock outcrop. The circled area is a piece of gravel that is about 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) across. It was selected as an example of coarse size and rounded shape. Rounded grains (of any size) occur by abrasion in sediment transport, by wind or water, when the grains bounce against each other. The gravel fragments are too large to be transported by wind, which indicates to scientists that the rounding occurred by water.
Below is a map of Curiosity’s path to Glenelg and the apparent Martian stream bed. The Goulburn site offered the first evidence that surface water might have transported sandstone material that made up the Link outcrop. The Link’s rounded shapes also provide further evidence of water transport on Mars. Another exposed rock outcrop, named Hottah, also contains many rounded pebbles, providing more evidence of free flowing Martian water. The rounded pebbles, up to 1.6 inches in diameter, are believed to be too large to have been transported by wind, according to NASA. Typical wind speeds on Mars can exceed 200 km/hr (or 125 miles/hr). Gusts can often reach 500 to 600 km/hr (or 300-375 miles/hr).
High-resolution view of Goulburn Scour, where a set of rocks got pushed out of the way when Curiosity descended to Mars.
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