The Curiosity rover was fitted with a variety of useful sensors in order to be able to convey valuable information about the planet. One of those sensors is an accelerometer, a baseline sensor that is present in most smartphones and tablets.
Curiosity is now exploring Mount Sharp, located in the middle of the Gale crater. The mountain is quite tall, reaching a height of 5 kilometers (or 3 miles). The researchers were puzzled by the elusive manner in which the mountain could have formed. It was theorized that it could have formed due to natural erosion or maybe it was just a large deposit of rocky material. The rover does not possess the technology required in order to run an accurate analysis but one of the researchers had an interesting idea.
He thought that most smartphone users are able to install an app n their devices that will allow them to measure the level of the gravitational force in their area. The measurements are not entirely accurate but the data holds some value.
Gravimetry is a science that is preoccupied with the exact measurement of a targeted gravitational field, providing information that allows researchers to learn more about the types of rocks that can be found under the surface. This is usually done by using a tool named gravimeter but Curiosity doesn’t have one. A suit of gyroscopes and accelerometer are present in order to measure how the rover travels.
These tools are not as sensitive as a gravimeter but the data that is collected can be used. The researchers downloaded the data stored by Curiosity and added a variety of modifiers like the location of the rover and climatic conditions in order to calculate the density of the rocks in the area.
The results were surprising since the overall density was lower than expected, suggesting that Mount Sharp is, in fact, a conglomeration of sediments.
The results have been published in a peer-reviewed journal.