Curiosity rover finds old streambed on Martian surface

Sep 27, 2012 by Guy Webster
In this image from NASA's Curiosity rover, a rock outcrop called Link pops out from a Martian surface that is elsewhere blanketed by reddish-brown dust. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

(Phys.org)—NASA's Curiosity rover mission has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence—images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels—is the first of its kind.

Scientists are studying the images of stones cemented into a layer of conglomerate rock. The sizes and shapes of stones offer clues to the speed and distance of a long-ago stream's flow.

"From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep," said science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley. "Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different about the flows in them. This is the first time we're actually seeing water-transported on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to of it."

NASA's Curiosity rover found evidence for an ancient, flowing stream on Mars at a few sites, including the rock outcrop pictured here, which the science team has named "Hottah" after Hottah Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The finding site lies between the north rim of Gale Crater and the base of , a mountain inside the crater. Earlier imaging of the region from Mars orbit allows for additional interpretation of the gravel-bearing conglomerate. The imagery shows an alluvial fan of material washed down from the rim, streaked by many apparent channels, sitting uphill of the new finds.

The rounded shape of some stones in the conglomerate indicates long-distance transport from above the rim, where a channel named Peace Vallis feeds into the alluvial fan. The abundance of channels in the fan between the rim and conglomerate suggests flows continued or repeated over a long time, not just once or for a few years.

This set of images compares the Link outcrop of rocks on Mars (left) with similar rocks seen on Earth (right). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS and PSI

The discovery comes from examining two outcrops, called "Hottah" and "Link," with the telephoto capability of Curiosity's mast camera during the first 40 days after landing. Those observations followed up on earlier hints from another outcrop, which was exposed by thruster exhaust as Curiosity, the Mars Project's rover, touched down.

"Hottah looks like someone jack-hammered up a slab of city sidewalk, but it's really a tilted block of an ancient streambed," said Mars Science Laboratory Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The gravels in conglomerates at both outcrops range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Some are angular, but many are rounded.

"The shapes tell you they were transported and the sizes tell you they couldn't be transported by wind. They were transported by water flow," said Curiosity science co-investigator Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz.

The science team may use Curiosity to learn the elemental composition of the material, which holds the conglomerate together, revealing more characteristics of the wet environment that formed these deposits. The stones in the conglomerate provide a sampling from above the crater rim, so the team may also examine several of them to learn about broader regional geology.

The slope of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater remains the rover's main destination. Clay and sulfate minerals detected there from orbit can be good preservers of carbon-based organic chemicals that are potential ingredients for life.

"A long-flowing stream can be a habitable environment," said Grotzinger. "It is not our top choice as an environment for preservation of organics, though. We're still going to Mount Sharp, but this is insurance that we have already found our first potentially habitable environment."

During the two-year prime mission of the Laboratory, researchers will use Curiosity's 10 instruments to investigate whether areas in have ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

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Jeweller
5 / 5 (6) Sep 27, 2012
Keep an eye open for some Alluvial gemstones there.
Telekinetic
1.4 / 5 (20) Sep 27, 2012
Shallow streams or creeks will very likely have crayfish living in them. Let's suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine a martian version of a "crawdaddy". Sometime in the many billions of years of these crawdads' development, their little frozen eggs hitched a ride on a meteor that landed somewhere on a suitable incubator like Earth. Now if you look at an MRI of a human brain, what do you see? Eyes bulging out of their sockets just like a crayfish. Conjecture perhaps, but Curiosity might have found the home of our missing link.
rockwolf1000
4.5 / 5 (8) Sep 27, 2012
Shallow streams or creeks will very likely have crayfish living in them. Let's suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine a martian version of a "crawdaddy". Sometime in the many billions of years of these crawdads' development, their little frozen eggs hitched a ride on a meteor that landed somewhere on a suitable incubator like Earth. Now if you look at an MRI of a human brain, what do you see? Eyes bulging out of their sockets just like a crayfish. Conjecture perhaps, but Curiosity might have found the home of our missing link.

You have a VIVID imagination!

LordKinyambiss
5 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2012
By this time next year, Curiosity will have definitely told us some interesting things, hopefully something necessitating that sample return and other follow up efforts considering the current fiscal climate.
Telekinetic
1.3 / 5 (12) Sep 27, 2012
Why, thank you kindly, rockwolf1000, but I always like to back up my "vivid" imagination with a dose of reality- like a pearl-handled derringer in the vest pocket.
http://www.kurzwe...rzweilAI Daily Newsletter&utm_campaign=510f18423c-UA-946742-1&utm_medium=email
dtxx
3.2 / 5 (6) Sep 27, 2012
I really like Kurzweil, and have read two of his books, but I'd hardly call him a "dose of reality." That's despite his numerous scientific achievments. More like "wishful thinking," though I too wish most of his predictive and speculative thoughts will come true. He said in a recent interview "I will be smarter in 2851 than I am now." As a betting man, I'd definitely take the odds against him making it another 800 years.

Even if Martian lithopanspermia holds true, that still leaves us with the fundamental question of the begining of life. Sadly it would push it further out of the reach of our research abilities and would likely be twisted by religionists to become "see we did come from the heavens!!!"
orogenicman
1.7 / 5 (3) Sep 27, 2012
I find it odd that they would call this the first time that they've seen this kind of evidence. A couple of weeks ago I was browsing through the raw photos at the curiosity web site and found this one dated :

2012-09-08 23:35:20 UTC

In the bottom right of the image, you can see well rounded rocks that were qwuite obviously water-worn. Am I the only one who figured this out? Go to their web site and look for that image. Itried to post a link to it, but the spam filters won't let me do that.
orogenicman
5 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2012
The photo I am referring to can be found on the page listed "SOL 33", "subframe data product", Mastcam right.
Telekinetic
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 27, 2012
@dtxx:
"Now we take you back to 1965, when Kurzweil wasn't yet a futurist. Only 17 years old, he was a wunderkind, a high school student immersed in artificial intelligence who tinkered away, and eventually figured out how to program a computer to produce original musical compositions."

As brilliant as we know Kurzweill to be, he's just the messenger here, so there's no point in killing him. The researchers at Princeton and U.of AZ are what I would consider to be as close to a dose of reality one could ask for. It's theoretical, but they've increased the odds of the original proposition.
Walter_Mrak
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 27, 2012
What evidence suggests water flow? Maybe it is a dry liquid nitrogen creek? Maybe it is a dry liquid
sulfur creek? Perhaps it is a dry liquid CO2 creek?
Trenchant
3.8 / 5 (6) Sep 27, 2012
This is one of the more significant finds of our lifetime and yet some of you see it as an opportunity to bash religion. This has nothing to do with religion either way. This is science. Good, important science. See it for what it is, learn.
orogenicman
5 / 5 (3) Sep 27, 2012
What evidence suggests water flow? Maybe it is a dry liquid nitrogen creek? Maybe it is a dry liquid
sulfur creek? Perhaps it is a dry liquid CO2 creek?


For one thing, there isn't a lot of nitrogen in Mars' atmosphere, and it doesn't get cold enough to have either liquid or dry nitrogen there. Secondly, if it is liquid, it isn't "dry". The possibility was raised to me that perhaps it is an indication of liquid CO2 flowing on Mars. A possibility. However, given that we already know that liquid water once existed on Mars, I think it is more likely that it evidence of water flowing. I would be my reputation as a geologist on it.
dompee
2.1 / 5 (8) Sep 28, 2012
while I agree with Trenchant that it's "good important science" I also have to disagree bc it's always a good time to "bash religion" god speed curiousity! Ha!
boater805
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 28, 2012
The photo certainly shows evidence of deposition in a flowing environment. However, based on just the single detail photo shown, it does not resemble deposition in a flowing water environment. Notice the side by side earth photo of stream deposition where the sediment exhibits a strong bi-modal distribution of grain size, even rounding of grains, fair sorting, and a very strong imbrication pattern. These are all characteristic of stream deposition.
The martian photo comparison is not a match to these features. Indeed it appears to differ in every way, exhibiting multi-modal grain size distribution, extreme variation in grain rounding, poor sorting and no imbrication pattern at all. From this limited one shot picture available here the Mars sample appears far more consistent with examples of terrestrial pyroclastic debris floes as opposed to stream bed deposition.
Chromodynamix
2.3 / 5 (8) Sep 28, 2012
It is not possible to have liquid CO2 on Mars, which requires 60 Bar at Earth ambient temperatures, and also has a critical temperature of 32 Deg C.
Osiris1
1.8 / 5 (10) Sep 28, 2012
Bet if Curiosity found a skeleton of anything, at least some one or more pathoskeptiks would bash it as having fallen off a part of Curiosity or its delivery system.........discounting that all these had been literally microscopically checked before departure. Point is: Mars is what she is, a harsh mistress most likely, but probably supported life somewhere, and may yet possess it. It may have life that we have a difficulty recognizing as such. Religious folks who would oppose this have not a leg to stand on, as God created the whole universe, and protects this life as well. Read your Bible..."In the House of my Father are many Mansions..." If some on one world somehow transported to another and developed more, it is in the same universe still. For God to have created the Universe, he is older than it! All creative, all pervasive, dwells in each of us and watches over us all. I AM a scientist and find no conflict here with science as that is his too.
rubberman
3 / 5 (4) Sep 28, 2012
Boater, water is a key ingredient in a pyroclastic flow. Your assertion makes sense because the rover is inside a crater after all, but either way (stream bed deposit or PC flow) there had to have been water present in some form to have the soil structure in the photo.
Telekinetic
1.3 / 5 (8) Sep 28, 2012
"Read your Bible..."In the House of my Father are many Mansions.."- Osiris
I interpret that as meaning there are a multitude of dimensions, and not just one universe. The sages of ancient times often predated the work of physicist David Deutsch, who promotes the "Many Worlds Interpretation". There were thinkers on par with physicists in Greece, Persia, and Asia where they theorized similarly to present-day scientists. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water if a deity is mentioned, as that can be a reverse form of witch-hunting.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2012
Creationists shouldn't comment on science. It is hilarious to see.

Of course we would recognize the phylogeny of Earth fossil skeleton's as opposed to indigenous. That is a simple prediction of evolution. Read your biology...

And as we all know a creationist can make a good technician (able to snag Nobel prizes, say) but never a good scientist, since the sphere of religion is then protected from empiricism and skepticism.
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (7) Sep 28, 2012
Intolerance and censorship are hazardous traps that can be found outside of the realm of religious teaching. The open dialogue we have here demands that all opinions and theories are allowed to be aired, even if they're unpopular. Today's revelations about quantum phenomena are more wild than religious ideas, yet I accept their possibility with an open and scientific mind.
MIBO
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 29, 2012
the trouble for me is viewing some of the other pictures, for example http://mars.jpl.n...DXXX.jpg and there are many many more. It appears as though the photos are being faked. I'd love to believe they are really from Mars but there are so may anomalies that I have to question their authenticity. Look closely at the metal tags ( ties ) sticking out of the "Concrete".
Seems a lot more like builders rubble.
Uneducated
5 / 5 (1) Sep 29, 2012
Look closely at the metal tags ( ties ) sticking out of the "Concrete".
Seems a lot more like builders rubble.


haha yeah it looks like a rio bar, but i think its just a rock
ubavontuba
2 / 5 (4) Sep 29, 2012
Here, would have been a good place to have a handy microscope.
MIBO
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 29, 2012
Uneducated, look again at the shadow. Actually there are several of these ties. And above, to the right look at the square hole, and piece of concrete next to it that fits. There are also several metal re-inforcement bars sticking out at several points.
If you look at this one http://mars.jpl.n...DXXX.jpg there is a metal spigot type object.
my favourite is http://mars.jpl.n...17M_.JPG
but also look at the wooden roofing spar with bolts and nice 45 degree cut angle in the latest image.http://mars.jpl.n...amp;s=52
or the metal bracket in http://mars.jpl.n...0M_.JPG, check the shadows you can see clearly.
MIBO
1.5 / 5 (8) Sep 29, 2012
Now the point is if you spend billions on a project and crash it, what do you do to save face?. Place a rover where nobody would expect to find it, i.e. somewhere you tested nuclear weapons, which would explain why there is debris from buildings etc.
Just a thought, the alternative is much more exciting, but less likely.
ubavontuba
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 29, 2012
Here, would have been a good place to have a handy microscope.
LOL. I've noticed it rarely takes "Lite" more than a few minutes to downrank me. Apparently, he has absolutely nothing better to do. How nice to know I matter to someone, so thoroughly.

Shall I start the clock again and see again how important I am to your pathetic life? LOL

ubavontuba
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 30, 2012
Here, would have been a good place to have a handy microscope.
LOL. I've noticed it rarely takes "Lite" more than a few minutes to downrank me. Apparently, he has absolutely nothing better to do. How nice to know I matter to someone, so thoroughly.

Shall I start the clock again and see again how important I am to your pathetic life? LOL
LOL. That didn't take long. Lite follows ubavontuba, everywhere.

Hey lite, would you like to know my Twitter account so you can follow me there too?

Come and kiss my feet.
ubavontuba
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 30, 2012
Wow, that was fast. Less than 3 minutes. Lite hangs on my every word! How flattering.

To bad the poor, pathetic lite has no real life, or real friends.

A_Paradox
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 30, 2012
MIBO, I had a good look at those photos you list [except for the last which only gives an error message.] I can see none of these supposed pieces of building rubble and fixings.

Are you trolling? Are you a Moon walk denier also? I spent ages looking at the supposedly fake videos of moon walks, stumbles, buggy drives, etc and everything I see ties in with what is known about fix in low gravity in a vacuum.

If you don't like the idea of robot machines exploring Mars, why don't you go and do something useful elsewhere instead of wasting yours and everybody else's time ...
Believe me Squire, this here is _not_ your vocation.
A_Paradox
5 / 5 (3) Sep 30, 2012
MIBO, I had a good look ... and everything I see ties in with what is known about fix in low gravity in a vacuum. ...


'fix'? oops, sorry, that was meant to be physics, I need some more caffeine.
A_Paradox
4 / 5 (4) Sep 30, 2012
boater805, I know nothing about pyroclastic flows ['cept never to be near one :-] and little about the details of fast stream water flows. It occurs to me thought that the gravity at surface of Mars is less than Earth's 1 "g". Might this not have an effect of carrying relatively heavier pebbles a bit further than would happen here?

If so then, coupled with a fast sinking of H2O into flat and absorbent ground, might that not result in a more mixed sediment? I mean bigger bits bouncing further along the stream bed than they would on Earth.
MIBO
1 / 5 (5) Sep 30, 2012
Paradox,
I have a degree in electronics, filed about 17 patents on advanced technology including in GPS and datacomms, I belive strongly in the existence of life throughout the universe, and I'm an atheist.
I'd like nothing more than for these to be real and like any scientist I'm sceptical about results and always look for proof. I'm certainly not trolling.
I would love to believe that Mars was once inhabited and spent some time going through all the photo's in detail, I approach things scientifically and thoroughly, but I can't get away from the facts that I see. BTW, the last one has a comma at the end, delete the comma and it works, when I tried to edit it I could only access half of my post.
If you want to verify me try http://uk.linkedi.../197/280
Mayday
1.3 / 5 (6) Sep 30, 2012
I find the most curious aspect of this mission to be the extreme slow-motion of all activities. It is as though the mission was designed to produce the lowest possible public profile. They could be a bit more aggressive with the exploration and with answering some of the skeptics. We see a great photo of some very curious rocks... then nothing, no detailed follow-up, close-ups or analysis. I love NASA, but they're making a potentially exciting mission of discover into something quite boring. And glossing over all skeptical analysis doesn't help.
Anda
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 30, 2012
Fucking denialists, creacionists, no science based commentarists, fuck you all :)
MIBO
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 30, 2012
Anda,
I'm neither a denialist nor a creationist, unlike you I'm educated and can spell, come back when you learn to read and write.
Mayday
1 / 5 (3) Sep 30, 2012
I'm no denialist isn't nor am I a creacionist(sic), far from it. I would just like NASA and her supporters to engage in a wider dialog. As things stand, their's appears to be a very closed community with no interest in outsider opinions or discussion. Opening up wider dialog would greatly benefit future support from a wider audience. I know all true scientists abhor PR even worse than a vacuum, but please consider the alternative.
VendicarD
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 30, 2012
It just seems slow to you because the Martian year is much longer than the earth year.

"I find the most curious aspect of this mission to be the extreme slow-motion of all activities." - Mayday
VendicarD
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2012
If these pictures are not evidence for Martians, I don't know what is.

Here is a wicker basket found on Mars.

http://mars.jpl.n...t_th.jpg

The ruins of an ancient castle on Mars.

http://mars.jpl.n...B_th.jpg

Here is a cheese role found on Mars.

http://www.univer...ocks.jpg

A big red rock found on Mars

http://scienceblo...mars.jpg

A Marian Lunchbox found on Mars.

http://www.davidd...king.jpg

And finally a Transparent Gelatinous Martian Wombat looking for it's car keys.

http://static.gui...-001.jpg
islatas
4.5 / 5 (4) Oct 01, 2012
Mayday, have you tried looking for NASA's ongoing conversation on this mission? If so, youve haven't looked very hard. Try NASA.gov for starters and go to the mission page. There you will find near daily mission updates, links to JPLs update videos on youtube, links to ustream casts often over an hour long including one about the photos in this article. In fact their coverage does such a superior job putting these photos in the proper context that half of the comments on this article wouldn't exist had phys.org just linked to NASAs report. The other half are utter nonsense.

Before criticizing, lift a finger.
rubberman
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 01, 2012
"And finally a Transparent Gelatinous Martian Wombat looking for it's car keys." classic

Have you ever tried to pet one of these things, if you touch the wrong spot your hand gets stuck....and it really stinks!

MIBO- Your last link is actually to your "linked in" page, as far as the building supplies in the martian photos, cheers mate!
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (7) Oct 01, 2012
"The other half are utter nonsense."- islatas
I hope you're not referring to my martian crayfish theory on the origin of man. Leakey would have certainly been intrigued.
Allex
4 / 5 (4) Oct 01, 2012
I have a degree in electronics, filed about 17 patents on advanced technology including in GPS and datacomms

Yet you fail in basic geoscience. So yeah... If you start seeing manufactured artefacts in naturally occurring geological structures it's time to go back to electronics.
Jonseer
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 02, 2012
MIBO, I had a good look at those photos you list [except for the last which only gives an error message.] I can see none of these supposed pieces of building rubble and fixings.

A_PARADOX IF YOU HAVEN'T HEARD of the term, MIBO suffers from extreme Pareidolia a psychological phenomenon where people interpret vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) as something significant when there is NO basis for they ASSUMPTION nor for their certainty.

An easy to understand example is the face on mars, but it's not just faces. It can be seeing or hearing anything like seeing fossils in sedimentary rock formations

Personally, I'm surprised no one's seen the rocks that look like fossils LOL. I see them. (but I know it's extremely unlikely that they are fossils, and am not assuming they are).

http://en.wikiped...aradolia

For more info if you aren't already aware of the term.

Jonseer
3 / 5 (4) Oct 02, 2012
MIBO..... but I can't get away from the facts that I see.


If you are as logical and rational as you say, then please read about the term "Pareidolia".

http://en.wikiped...aradolia

It's a psychological phenomenon where vague and random stimulus is seen as something significant often within the context of a person's desires or beliefs.

Since you want to believe a civilization once existed on Mars, you see remnants of one.

You believe you are right, despite virtually no one else being able to confirm seeing the same thing, and if someone does, they can't without extremely explicit guidance from you; you believe it despite literally millions of people disagreeing with you.

This is NOT a mental illness or mentali condition by the way.

It's something every human being experiences regularly.

You're just experiencing it in regards to the pictures of Mars.

MIBO
1 / 5 (5) Oct 02, 2012
Jonseer,
I'm very familiar with peoples ability to see what they want to see in random images, but in my case I've been quite thorough in examinging multiple images taken at different times from different angles.
In case you hadn't realized the rovers are moving and the images are taken at different time offset from different locations but overlapping which provides multiple images for verification.
I studies the effects of lighting ( images taken at different times cast different shadows ), and still come to the same conclusions.
Interestingly if you have been following the cameras there now appears to be significant degradation occurring on the image sensors on one of them, typical of effects of radiation causing damage to a CCD sensor. Strange that they survive a journey through the harsh radiation of space, but start to degrade rapidly once landed.
look at the latest sequence from the front and rear hazcams, load the images and step through them and you can see the damage.
SuicideSamurai
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 03, 2012
Now the point is if you spend billions on a project and crash it, what do you do to save face?. Place a rover where nobody would expect to find it, i.e. somewhere you tested nuclear weapons, which would explain why there is debris from buildings etc.
Just a thought, the alternative is much more exciting, but less likely.


They spend "billions" the lander crashes, and then in that cover up they overlook some building ties?

Explain to us how that could happen... They are so hasty in choosing a site they overlook "metal ties" (which you should highlight if you want people to see them) in so called "building rubble".

If they were that hasty, and since they CANNOT change the site as that would be highly visible, what is to stop them from coming across, say an old candybar wrapper, or a clearly, explicitly obvious, piece of human debris...

So far your evidence is less than flimsy. Also how do you account for the closeness of the horizon in all the wide angle shots?
MIBO
1 / 5 (5) Oct 04, 2012
SuicideSamurai,
If I had somewhere to post the pictures I would, I have a number marked up. But better pictures come up every day so just keep watching the nasa server, it's getting too obvious.
marble89
1 / 5 (3) Oct 04, 2012
Earth geologist are so quick to conclude an earth like cause MUST be behind every "earth like" Martian feature.
Think of the several times over the last few decades NASA geologist have called press conferences to announce they have found proof of liquid water flowing on the surface of mars today.. In each case their claims were made in spite of strong indications from other disciplines that liquid water is very unlikely the cause.
( the only possible exceptions are the massive fluvial features east and north of Valles Marinaris)
MIBO
1 / 5 (3) Oct 05, 2012
having seen some more pictures I'd reccommend http://mars.jpl.n...DXXX.jpg

Now it seems it may well be mars, these object show the signs of extreme corrosion, but I's challeng anybody to explain how the object in the bottom left can be produced by erosion and have a wheel attached.

If it is mars then it's astonshing.
VendicarD
5 / 5 (2) Oct 05, 2012
Forget the wheel, that rock that is hovering above the sand right next to it is the target.

Clearly the Martians had invented hover-board technology long before it was invented for those back to the future movies.

They ain't movies people... They is Documentaries. Just like "They Live".

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