In a major breakthrough, US space agency NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has uncovered mineral veins at a site on the Martian surface.
The new discovery has offered fresh clues about the presence of multiple episodes of fluid movement in the Martian region.
The rover found the mineral veins at a site known as “Garden City”, which is situated on the slopes of a five kilometers high mountain called Mount Sharp.
Garden City is approximately 39 feet higher compared to the bottom edge of the “Pahrump Hills”, which is the outcrop of the bedrock that forms Mount Sharp’s basal layer, at the centre of Gale Crater on Mars.
The mineral veins look like a ridges’ network that is left standing above the bedrock, now eroded-away, in which they were formed.
The individual ridges range up to approximately 2.5 inches high and half that in width. They possess both dark and bright material.
Curiosity project member Linda Kah, from the University of Tennessee, said, “Some of them look like ice-cream sandwiches, i.e. dark on both edges and white in the middle. These materials tell us about secondary fluids that were transported through the region after the host rock formed.”
Mineral Veins like this, where movement of fluid occurs through cracked rock and minerals get deposited in the fractures, often affect the rock’s chemistry that is surrounding the fractures.
The bright veins on Mars are composed of calcium sulfate at many earlier locations. On the other hand, the dark material preserved here offers a greater opportunity to learn more.
Kah said, “At least two secondary fluids have left evidence here. We want to understand the chemistry of the different fluids that were here and the sequence of events. How have later fluids affected the host rock?”
Mud forming lake-bed mudstones that the Curiosity rover had examined near its landing site in 2012 and after reaching the Mount Sharp should have dried and hardened before the formation of fractures.
The dark material lining the fracture walls clearly reflects a previous episode of fluid flow compared to what is done by the white, calcium-sulfate-rich veins. Although both flows occurred after the cracks formed.