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NASA's Curiosity Eyes Prominent Mineral Veins on Mars Prominent Veins at 'Garden City' on Mount Sharp, Mars Night Close-up of Mineral Veins at 'Garden City,' Mars This March 18, 2015, view from the Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows a network of two-tone mineral veins at an area called "Garden City" on lower Mount Sharp. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA Curiosity Rover Images Show Traces of Flowing Water, Minerals on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars surface has taken pictures of two-tone mineral veins at a site called “Garden City”. The view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows a network of two-tone mineral veins.

The veins combine light and dark material measuring up to about 2.5 inches (6 centimeters) above the surrounding rock, and their widths range up to about 1.5 inches (4 centimeters). Figure 1 includes a 30-centimeter scale bar  or about 12 inches.

This scene is a mosaic combining 28 images taken with Mastcam’s right-eye camera, which has a telephoto lens with a focal length of 100 millimeters. The component images were taken on March 18, 2015, during the 929th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars. The color has been approximately white-balanced to resemble how the scene would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth.

This view from the Mars Hand Lens Imager on the arm of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is a close-up of a two-tone mineral vein at a site called 'Garden City' on lower Mount Sharp. It was taken during night, illuminated by LEDs, on March 25, 2015.

This view from the Mars Hand Lens Imager on the arm of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is a close-up of a two-tone mineral vein at a site called ‘Garden City’ on lower Mount Sharp. It was taken during night, illuminated by LEDs, on March 25, 2015. (NASA)

Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates the rover’s Mastcam. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project’s Curiosity rover.

NASA’s Curiosity rover has also offered clues about fluid movement episodes, which are post-wet environmental conditions observed at the base of the mountain, said NASA. While Curiosity has discovered mineral composition at three sites named cristobalite, the new veins seen in images taken by Curiosity uphill show that the layers of Mount Sharp provide insights into the evolution of an ancient environment on a planet.

“Some of them look like ice-cream sandwiches: dark on both edges and white in the middle,” said Linda Kah, a Curiosity monitoring team member at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Veins form through the cracked rock and deposit minerals in these fractures and these veins composed of calcium sulfate at previous locations. The dark material adjacent presents remains to be analyzed. Kah said, “At least two secondary fluids have left evidence here. We want to understand the chemistry of the different fluids that were here and the sequence of events.”

The dark material along the fracture walls reflects an earlier episode of fluid flow than the white, calcium-sulfate-rich veins do, although both flows occurred after the cracks formed, she explained.

Garden City measures about 39 feet (12 meters) higher than the bottom edge of the “Pahrump Hills” at the base layer of Mount Sharp, at the center of Mars’ Gale Crater.

The Curiosity mission has examined about six months examining the first 33 feet (10 meters) of elevation at Pahrump Hills, climbing from the lower edge to higher sections three times to vertically profile the rock structures and chemistry, and to select the best targets for drilling.

Analysis of the three earlier drilled samples from Pahrump Hills have clear differences in mineral components. The first, “Confidence Hills,” had the most clay minerals and hematite, both of which commonly form under wet conditions.

The second, “Mojave,” had the most jarosite, an oxidized mineral containing iron and sulfur that forms in acidic conditions. The third is “Telegraph Peak.” The examination of Garden City is from its surface and has not included drilling for a sample.

After finishing its probe of the Telegraph Peak area, the Curiosity will move to a valley called “Artist’s Drive” to reach higher layers. The task ahead for engineers on Earth is to avoid another short-circuit and carry out drill for samples.

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