On Mars, the Curiosity rover overturns assumptions about the existence of water

On Mars, the Curiosity rover overturns assumptions about the existence of water

While NASA has ended the Ingenuity missions due to a technical issue, Curiosity continues to explore the Martian soil. The rover has been cruising Mount Sharp for 10 years, after losing its small helicopter, and is focusing more closely on the Gediz Valles Channel, whose winding structure appears to have been carved by an ancient river.

To scientists, the steep sides of the channel formation rule out a wind-related origin. This suggests the hypothesis of debris flows or the presence of a river transporting material with sufficient energy to burrow into the rock substrate.

Billions of years ago, Mars' climate was wetter and perhaps warmer than it is today, and Curiosity can provide evidence of that with its images.

Curiosity arouses curiosity

The latest is a panoramic image created using the black and white navigation camera mounted on the mast of the machine. there Filming date: February 1, 2024, the 4084th sol, or sol, of the mission. The panorama consists of 10 images collected after being sent to Earth.

The Gedes Valles Channel is one of the last features to form on the 5-kilometre-high Mount Sharp, whose base Curiosity has been climbing since 2014. The channel is filled with piles of rocks and other debris that may have been brought here by wreckers. Flows (fast, wet landslides) or dry avalanches.

Did the water disappear and then reappear?

In fact, we can see in the images soil rich in sulfate, which is often formed during the evaporation of water. This exploration could provide valuable clues about how the presence of water and its chemical components associated with life have changed over time.

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“If the channel or debris pile was formed by liquid water, that's really interesting. That means that very late in Mount Sharp's history — after a long period of drought — the water came back, and in a big way.” He becomes excited Ashwin VasavadaCuriosity project scientist, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A puzzle for researchers

In other words, continuing exploration of the Gedes Valles Channel could change the understanding of the chronology of Mount Sharp's formation, but also the evolution of water on Mars. The hypothesis that liquid water may have been present in later stages of Mount Sharp's history intrigues researchers.

This would indicate a fluctuation in the presence of water, rather than a gradual disappearance. NASA rover observations indicate cycles of hydrological activity, with evidence such as mud fissures and shallow lakes. The channel's proximity to catastrophic debris flows strengthens this hypothesis.

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