NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finds Coral-Like Rock Formation That Could Have Been Formed by Flowing Water on Mars

by Taylor Cunningham
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NASA’s Curiosity rover made a huge find this week when it unearthed a coral-like rock formation on Mars.

The formation is actually made of minerals. And it could help scientists understand more about the red planet’s soil structure and past.

“Your Friday moment of zen,” Curiosity project scientist Abigail Fraeman wrote on Twitter today. “A beautiful new microscopic image from @MarsCuriosity shows teeny, tiny delicate structures that formed by mineral precipitating from water. (Penny approximately for scale added me).”

The rover stumbled upon the mineral formation in the Gale Crater, a dry lake bed that spans 96 miles in diameter. And it used a special camera that NASA built just for this occasion called the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). The device can capture samples that are smaller than a piece of human hair.

The rover has photographed similar formations in the past that are made of salts called sulfates. Scientists believe that sulfates also created this current find, but they haven’t verified those assumptions quite yet.

If it is the same type of structure, it is known as a diagenetic crystal cluster, which is a recombination of minerals that was most likely formed by flowing water.

Studies have found that the formations probably once rested inside rocks, which eroded away over time. But because the minerals are resistant to the erosion themselves, they survived.

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Just Celebrated its One Year Anniversary on the Red Planet

While Curiosity is making headlines for unearthing tiny crystal structures, its counterpart, Perseverance, is celebrating a milestone anniversary on Mars.

On February 21st, the rover celebrated the one-year mark on the planet. NASA sent the high-tech robot to Mars to find signs of life. And (as far as we know) it hasn’t spotted any tiny green men—yet. But it has made some other big discoveries.

The rover has mostly been collecting rock samples and conducting experiments. And all the while, it’s been sending its findings back to Earth.

It also has a helicopter counterpart dubbed Ingenuity that uses the rover as a landing pad. Together they have had 19 successful flights. And that’s a huge accomplishment because engineers predicted that Ingenuity would only fly five times.

Perseverance is currently collecting samples from the Jezero Crater, which NASA believes was once a lake. And the administration also hopes that the evidence of life it’s looking for is somewhere in that area.

Outsider.com