NASA 'Curiosity' Disovery --Solid Evidence of an Old Streambed on Mars
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May 31, 2013

NASA 'Curiosity' Disovery --Solid Evidence of an Old Streambed on Mars

 

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Detailed analysis and review have borne out researchers’ initial interpretation of pebble-containing slabs that NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity investigated last year: they are part of an ancient streambed. The rocks are the first ever found on Mars that contain streambed gravels. The sizes and shapes of the gravels embedded in these conglomerate rocks — from the size of sand particles to the size of golf balls — enabled researchers to calculate the depth and speed of the water that once flowed at this location.

“We completed more rigorous quantification of the outcrops to characterize the size distribution and roundness of the pebbles and sand that make up these conglomerates,” said Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Ariz., lead author of a report about them in the journal Science this week. “We ended up with a calculation in the same range as our initial estimate last fall. At a minimum, the stream was flowing at a speed equivalent to a walking pace — a meter, or three feet, per second — and it was ankle-deep to hip-deep.”

“Our analysis of the amount of rounding of the pebbles provided further information,” said Sanjeev Gupta of Imperial College, London, a co-author of the new report. “The rounding indicates sustained flow. It occurs as pebbles hit each other multiple times. This wasn’t a one-off flow. It was sustained, certainly more than weeks or months, though we can’t say exactly how long.”

The stream carried the gravels at least a few miles, or kilometers, the researchers estimated.

The atmosphere of modern Mars is too thin to make a sustained stream flow of water possible, though the planet holds large quantities of water ice. Several types of evidence have indicated that ancient Mars had diverse environments with liquid water. However, none but these rocks found by Curiosity could provide the type of stream flow information published this week. Curiosity’s images of conglomerate rocks indicate that atmospheric conditions at Gale Crater once enabled the flow of liquid water on the Martian surface.

 

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NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover found evidence for ancient, water-transported sediment on Mars at a few sites, including the rock outcrop pictured above, named "Hottah". Rounded pebbles within this sedimentary conglomerate indicate sustained abrasion of rock fragments within water flows that crossed Gale Crater pictured at the top of the page.

The key evidence for the ancient stream comes from the size and rounded shape of the gravel in and around the bedrock. Hottah has pieces of gravel embedded in it, called clasts, up to a couple inches (few centimeters) in size and located within a matrix of sand-sized material. Some of the clasts are round in shape, leading the science team to conclude they were transported by a vigorous flow of water. The grains are too large to have been moved by wind. Erosion of the outcrop results in gravel clasts that protrude from the outcrop and ultimately fall onto the ground, creating the gravel pile in the left foreground. The scale bar at lower right is 5 centimeters (2 inches).

This view of Hottah is a mosaic of images taken by the right (telephoto-lens) camera of the Mast Camera instrument (Mastcam) on Curiosity during the 39th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Sept. 14, 2012 PDT/Sept. 15 GMT). It has been enhanced for presentation in white-balanced color, which yields a view as if the rock were seen under outdoor lighting conditions on Earth, which is useful for scientists to distinguish rocks by color in familiar lighting.

During a two-year prime mission, researchers are using Curiosity’s 10 science instruments to assess the environmental history in Gale Crater on Mars, where the rover has found evidence of ancient environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

 The Daily Galaxy via http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia17062.html

Comments

Of course there are streambeds and such have already been confirmed previous to the Curiosity rover.

I believe that it is conclusive that water did flow over the surface of Mars: some undetermined time ago. What became of the water that flowed on the surface of the Red Planet? Since the Red Planet had water it must have had the beginnings of life, but when did it all take place and where did the waters of Mars go? We know that an asteroid killed off most of the Dinosaurs on Earth, what effect did this monster have on Mars? Maybe the answer is blowing in the solar winds?

I can't help feeling that surface water on mars existed much later than the millions of years being said. Is there a correlation between the great climatic changes of Earth to the ones on Mars? Wouldn't it be cool if we found out that water was flowing on Mars at the same time of the medieval warm period of a thousand years ago. Maybe the Viking were farming on Greenland at the same time water was flowing through these ancient Martian stream beds. We know that Climatic changes on Earth are related to the Suns energy flux cycles so it must also be true for the other planets in the solar system as well. Studying Mars could reveal some surprising information about the close interrelationship between all the planets when it comes to climate change. Do the storms raging on Jupiter and Saturn relate to the weather changes on Earth and Mars to? Are these valid questions or are they just politically incorrect?


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