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3rd June 2013

Mars Curiosity rover – latest update

NASA's Curiosity rover has found evidence for an ancient, flowing stream at various sites on Mars.

The rock outcrop pictured here is among the latest to be studied. It has been named "Hottah", after Hottah Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories. It may look like a broken sidewalk, but this geological feature is actually exposed bedrock made up of smaller fragments cemented together, or what geologists call a sedimentary conglomerate. Scientists theorise that the bedrock was disrupted in the past, giving it the titled angle, most likely via impacts from meteorites.

The rocks are the first ever found on Mars that contain streambed gravels. The sizes and shapes of the gravels embedded in these conglomerate rocks – from the size of sand particles to the size of golf balls – enabled researchers to calculate the depth and speed of the water that once flowed at this location.

"We completed more rigorous quantification of the outcrops to characterise the size distribution and roundness of the pebbles and sand that make up these conglomerates," said Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute, Arizona, lead author of a report in the journal Science this week. "At a minimum, the stream was flowing at a speed equivalent to a walking pace – a metre, or three feet, per second – and it was ankle-deep to hip-deep."

The rover has been operating since August 2012 and has travelled a distance of 0.4 miles (0.7 km) so far. Its on-board plutonium generators carry enough power to last until 2026.

 

mars streambed

 

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