February 08, 2023

Image of sediment formed into rocks with rippled textures.
Figure A

Annotated image of sediment formed into rocks with rippled textures.
Figure B

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its Mastcam to capture this 360-degree panorama of “Marker Band Valley” on Dec. 16, 2022, the 3,684th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The rover sits in the center of the image; below its raised robotic arm is a spot where it twice attempted to drill into the rocks here.

This mosaic is made up of 137 individual images that were stitched together after being sent back to Earth. The color has been adjusted to match lighting conditions as the human eye would perceive them on Earth.

The rocks near these attempted drill holes have a rippled texture that was created billions of years ago as waves flowed upon a shallow lake. Despite having climbed through thousands of feet of lake deposits, Curiosity had never previously seen evidence of water and waves this clear. The discovery came as a surprise because this region of Mount Sharp – the 3-mile-tall (5-kilometer-tall) mountain Curiosity is climbing – is thought to have formed as Mars’ climate was growing drier.

Figure A shows a close-up of the rippled textures. Figure B shows the same close-up with a scale bar.

Directly in front of the rover is the outer edge of the Marker Band – a dark, thin rock layer that was first seen from space. A “marker band” is a term geologists use to refer to a very distinct layer. Far in the distance, at the upper right, is the upper part of Mount Sharp.

Curiosity was built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed by Caltech in Pasadena, California. JPL leads the mission on behalf of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego built and operates Mastcam.

For more about Curiosity, visit: http://mars.nasa.gov/msl or https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/index.html.




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