Hot news comes from our favorite outer space rover. We now have information that Curiosity found Earth-like crust on Mars. More specifically, the curious droid looked at a number of rocks on the Martial soil which seemed to have some interesting materials inside.
Back in spring we were relieved to see Curiosity return to good health again, as it had healed its short-circuited robotic arm and had begun drilling again. Now, thanks to those drills, scientists were able to analyze the interior of about twenty-two rocks spread across the Gale Crater. Using the ChemCam laser, Curiosity observed that the composition of said rocks closely resembled what Earth’s Continental Crust looks like.
The ChemCam, or Chemistry and Camera, is a clever device which can act, obviously, both as a laser, and as a camera. It can shoot the laser at objects in order to vaporize materials which are smaller than 1mm. Then, with its camera, it can analyze the chemical composition of what remains.
With its built-in spectrograph, it can measure details about the minerals, as well as various microstructures resulting from the reaction with the laser. These are usually part of the small hot pplasma cloud of electrons and ions which float freely.
Compared to the two other NASA rovers that wandered about the Red Planet, Spirit and Opportunity (the latter still does), Curiosity has a magnifying power on its ChemCam ten times as big. Therefore, it can perfectly zoom in an area no larger than eight square millimeters, without distorting in any way its components.
What they eventually found were crystal formations unusual for the Martian territory. These were light-colored and had a lower density than what the researchers expected. Earth’s igneous rocks also have similar characteristics.
Previous rocks from Mars were basaltic, pretty dense, and usually dark, all qualities also found on rocks from the bottom of our oceans.
This new evidence comes in support of speculations by many scientists that Mars was once an Earth-like planet, with continents divided by oceans, both teeming with microbial life, at least.
The large bundle of images that Curiosity has taken on Mars, which have been made available through NASA’s website, have already prompted researchers to speculate the existence of microbial fossils, and of strange alien objects. They continue to inspire scientists to study them, and with results as these coming in all the more often, we can’t help but feel like there’s much, much more to our neighbor than we thought.
Image source: phys.org