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What's that Bump in the Streambed?

View a larger image (920 kB) or learn about other sol 20 images.

What's this large outcrop of rock doing out in the middle of a dry streambed? Researchers were puzzled by this exposure of rock out in the middle of a streambed. Large exposures of rocks are common along the edge of the streambed where the streambed has cut away and removed the rock. Inside the streambed, rocks and soils should be removed each time water flows down the river. Yet images returned from the FIDO rover show a few large exposures of rock within the streambed.

Cathy Weitz

"We were surprised to see such a beautiful exposure of this geologic unit sitting in the middle of the streambed," said Cathy Weitz, the Mars Exploration Rover Program Scientist from NASA Headquarters. "The fact that the rock didn't get eroded by the water after each flood event tells us that this material is pretty hard. It also looks like the upper surface of the exposure is harder compared to the material underneath, which is why more of the underlying material has been removed."

One possible explanation for the hardened material is from weathering. Sometimes material can get added from either water or wind and this can cement and add strength to the original rock or soil. But it's unlikely that the weathering would occur in such a small area associated with just this outcrop. Another possibility is that the water flowing down the streambed got diverted around this particular spot and that's why it's still left standing as a remnant compared to any adjacent material. The present shape of the rock is due to weathering and removal of debris, which eventually will cause all of it to be removed.

"This FIDO test is a great way to practice our science process. We're all eager to do the real mission on Mars and I have been anxious to participate for a long time. When I was a graduate student in 1997, the Pathfinder mission landed on Mars. I knew right then that I wanted to be involved on a rover mission, and I've focused my career on that goal ever since."

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Last Updated: 17 August 2002

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