Scientists from NASA are using Curiosity Mars Rover to test the rock slabs that have been cross hatched with shallow ridges arranged as cracks in drying mud. Team member Nathan Sien, a graduate student from Caltech in Pasadena, California, says, “Mud cracks are the most likely scenario here.” He led the exploration of a specific site known as “Old Soaker” over the lower Mount Sharp. If an interpretation like this holds up, these are going to be the first mud cracks on Mars surface. This would be an evidence that ancient era when sediments were deposited and dried post wetter situations. Curiosity recently discovered proof of such ancient lakes that are located in the lower-lying, older layers and also in the later mudstone that are placed over Old Soaker. Stein says, “Even from a distance, we could see a pattern of four- and five-sided polygons that don’t look like fractures we’ve seen previously with Curiosity. It looks like what you’d see beside the road where muddy ground has dried and cracked.”
The team also used Curiosity to test the material that fills up these cracks. These cracks are created over the surface like drying mud and these are usually filled with sand and dust blown by wind. There are different kind of cracks that are found over the surface of sediments after they have dried up. Curiosity found out that well enough. When pressure from accumulation of overlying sediments it leads to underground fractures inside the rock. Fractures like these are usually filled with minerals that are delivered by groundwater passing through cracks like bright veins of calcium sulfate.
Curiosity Project Scientist, Ashwin Vasavada from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, says, “If these are indeed mud cracks, they fit well with the context of what we’re seeing in the section of Mount Sharp Curiosity has been climbing for many months, The ancient lakes varied in depth and extent over time, and sometimes disappeared. We’re seeing more evidence of dry intervals between what had been mostly a record of long-lived lakes.”
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