Researchers Discover That Curiosity Rover Was Not Exploring Ancient Lake Sediments

Researchers Discover That Curiosity Rover Was Not Exploring Ancient Lake Sediments

The success of the rover Curiosity shows what can be accomplished when people take a passionate interest in a subject— Curiosity is the result of an 18-month mission by NASA and several other organizations. It landed on Mars on July 20, 2012 and has already accomplished many scientific milestones along its journey—including taking a picture of the Red Planet from orbit. For many people around the world the success of Curiosity has become an iconic symbol of the search for extraterrestrial life.

However, the landing location of the rover had a special signification, as scientists believed that the Gale crater was in fact an ancient Mars lake that existed more than 3 billion years ago. New data comes to contradict that assumption. Geologists from the Faculty of Science at The University of Hong Kong have discovered that the sediments analyzed belonged in fact from surface sediments.

The team suggested that the sand and silt analyzed for the last eight years was actually air-fall from the atmosphere and moved by the wind. The humid medium was not created by a lake but it was in fact the result of weathering. Researchers believed it was something similar to rainfall, happening long ago. In order to analyze the rocks, the scientists used various methods including x-ray diffraction and chemistry measurements.

“Jiacheng has demonstrated some very important chemical patterns in the rocks, which cannot be explained in the context of a lake environment. The key point is that some elements are mobile, or easy to dissolve in water, and some elements are immobile, or in other words, they stay in the rocks,” explained Dr. Michalski. “

Learning more about the environment on Mars can prove to be very useful for future research and it can help determine whether life on the Red Planet will be possible one day.

Katherine Baldwin

Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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