The Curiosity rover, a NASA robot that roams around Mars, has taken a curious photo on the surface of the red planet. The image appears to be a small flower. Project scientists gave the novelty the name “Blackthorn Salt”.
Apparently, the photographed material consists of mineral structures precipitating in water. To take the images very closely, the research team used the sensor Mars Handheld Lens Imager (MAHLI) space exploration robot.
It looks like a flower but it’s not
The type of mineral structure identified in the image is formed by clusters of three-dimensional crystals. Since Mars currently has no water in its soil, finding an Earth-like flower would be unlikely.
On Twitter, one of the Curiosity mission scientists, Abigail Fraeman, commented on the photographed feature: “We’ve seen structures like these before, especially the Pahrump Hills. There the features were made up of salts , called sulfates.”
According to NASA, Pahrump Hills is an outcrop at the foot of Mount Sharp.mountain at the center of Gale Crater on Mars.
As a result of studies previously carried out on this type of component on Mars, it was concluded that the resource was “stuck” in a rock that over time faced a process of erosion. However, the mineral clusters did not erode.
This is how the flower-like structure remained.
In 2013, Curiosity found another material that looked like a flower, and the Spirit rover discovered rocks with a similar appearance, earning it the nickname “cauliflower” due to the appearance formed from it. distorted projections.
In June 2004, in a study published in the scientific journal Nature, the Opportunity rover found the same structures as the Curiosity images, also called concretions. They earned the nickname “blueberries” due to their small rounded size.
In the image, it is possible to observe round concretions in an “object” that looks like a flower.
According to the Brazilian researcher Alexandre Zabot, doctor in astrophysics and professor of the aerospace engineering course at the UFSC (Federal University of Santa Catarina), the formation recorded by the NASA robot is further proof of the action of the water erosion in Martian soil.
“And it’s interesting that it’s held up to this day, because water on Mars has been gone for a few million years,” he says.
Zabot also points out that, from the moment the Martian soil began to be photographed, several geological formations similar to those of planet Earth were discovered.
“We’re sure we’ll find other formations like this, it’s no exception. It’s closer to being the rule in the things we find on Mars,” he concludes.
How the registration was made
In general, in the images taken by the MAHLI sensor of the Martian soil, the minerals and textures of the rock surfaces are revealed thanks to the close-up, which is a close-up shot of the object being photographed.
The platform’s camera, in turn, is the hand-held magnifying glass version of the Curiosity rover – a technology commonly used by geologists in the field.
*With information from NASA, Science Alert and Universe Today