This series of pie charts shows similarities and differences in the mineral composition of mudstone at 10 sites where NASA's Curiosity Mars rover collected rock-powder samples and analyzed them with the rover's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument.

This series of pie charts shows similarities and differences in the mineral compositions of mudstones at 10 sites where NASA's Curiosity Mars rover collected rock-powder samples and analyzed them with the rover's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument.

The charts are arrayed in chronological order, with an indication of relative elevation as the rover first sampled two sites on the floor of Gale Crater in 2013 and later began climbing the crater's central mound, Mount Sharp. The pie chart farthest to the right and uphill shows composition at the "Sebina" target, sampled in October 2016. Five non-mudstone rock targets that the rover drilled and analyzed within this time frame are not included.

The mineralogical variations in these mudstones may be due to differences in any or all of these factors: the source materials deposited by water that entered lakes, the processes of sedimentation and rock forming, and how the rocks were later altered.

One trend that stands out is that the mineral jarosite -- shown in purple -- was more prominent in the "Pahrump Hills" area of lower Mount Sharp than at sites examined either earlier or later. Jarosite is an indicator of acidic water. Mudstone layers uphill from Pahrump Hills have barely detectable amounts of jarosite, indicating a shift away from acidic conditions in these overlying -- thus younger -- layers. Clay minerals, shown as green, declined in abundance at sites midway through this series, then came back as the rover climbed higher.

Each drilled-and-analyzed target is identified with a two-letter abbreviation: JK for "John Klein," CB for "Cumberland." CH for "Confidence Hills," MJ for "Mojave," TP for "Telegraph Peak," BK for "Buckskin," OD for "Oudam," MB for "Marimba," QL for "Quela," and SB for Sebina. For locations and photos of these drilling sites, see http://mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/?ImageID=8202.

Credit

NASA/JPL-Caltech

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