About that 'flower' on Mars….

Jan 16, 2013 by Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today
A bright and interestingly shaped tiny pebble shows up among the soil on a rock, called 'Gillespie Lake,' which was imaged by Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager on Dec. 19, 2012, the 132nd sol, or Martian day of Curiosity's mission on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Curiosity rover is having a "field day" exploring the rocks in shallow depression that scientists call 'Yellowknife Bay', which is chockfull of light toned rocks. One small rock or feature – the size of a pebble or large grain of sand, actually – has caught the attention of many as it looks like a little flower. Keep in mind that this pebble is about 2 millimeters in size (a US dime coin is 1.35mm thick) so that's really teeny tiny. But through the power of zooming in to the high resolution images of the Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, there have been people who are convinced this is some sort of flora on Mars, or perhaps a fossil.

Initially, it was suggested that this could perhaps be a piece of plastic from the rover, similar to what was found earlier, but the MSL scientists quickly determined this was actually part of the rock.

Today, deputy principal investigator of MAHLI, Aileen Yingst of the Planetary Science Institute, told reporters that the big rock of which the flower is a part, named 'Gillespie Lake,' is a relatively dust free, coarse grained , with several larger grains in the matrix, "which are interesting because of their color, luster and shape," she said, and this unusually shaped grain is lighter in color – almost opaque—which indicates it could be made of something different than the rest of the rock.

What is it?

"It could be a lot of things, but without some to back me up, I'd really hesitate to say what it is," said Yingst. "I'm not trying to be cagey, I'm just trying to be clear that a light grain could be a lot of different things."

But what really matters is what the team is finding out about this region, as those rounded grains provide a clue to the history of this area.

"They've been knocked around, they've been busted up," said Yingst. "They've been rounded by some process.

This suggests that flowing water helped form this rock.

Yingst also stressed that is feature is not biological, "But it does indicate that you have a relatively diverse set of just in this one sample," she said.

So, water in the past but no flowers on Mars.

The rover has also found water-deposited mineral veins that fill fissures in the rocks, such as in the image below.

The team will continue to study this area, and have chosen a rock on which to use the rover's drill for the first time.

Light-toned veins in the rocks in Yellowknife Bay. Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems


Explore further: Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mars rover Curiosity's arm wields camera well

Sep 11, 2012

(Phys.org)—NASA's Mars rover Curiosity stepped through activities on Sept. 7, 8 and 9 designed to check and characterize precision movements by the rover's robotic arm and use of tools on the arm.

Curiosity rover explores 'Yellowknife Bay'

Jan 07, 2013

(Phys.org)—After imaging during the holidays, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity resumed driving Jan. 3 and pulled within arm's reach of a sinuous rock feature called "Snake River."

Camera on Curiosity's arm will magnify clues in rocks

Nov 17, 2010

NASA's next Mars rover, Curiosity, will wield an arm-mounted magnifying camera similar to one on the Mars Rover Opportunity, which promptly demonstrated its importance for reading environmental history from ...

Recommended for you

Two Galileo satellites lose their way

1 hour ago

Two European Galileo satellites launched as part of a navigation system designed to rival GPS have failed to locate their intended orbit, launch firm Arianespace said Saturday.

SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight

10 hours ago

A SpaceX rocket exploded in midair during a test flight, though no one was injured, as the company seeks to develop a spacecraft that can return to Earth and be used again.

Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

Aug 22, 2014

When Saturn is at its closest to Earth, it's three-quarters of a billion miles away—or more than a billion kilometers! That makes these raw images from the ringed planet all the more remarkable.

Europe launches two navigation satellites

Aug 22, 2014

Two satellites for Europe's rival to GPS were lifted into space on Friday to boost the Galileo constellation to six orbiters of a final 30, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

SpaceX gets 10-year tax exemption for Texas site

Aug 22, 2014

Cameron County commissioners have agreed to waive 10 years of county taxes as part of an agreement bringing the world's first commercial site for orbital rocket launches to the southernmost tip of Texas.

User comments : 0