NASA Curiosity Mars Rover has been examining slabs of rocks with cracks of dying mud on the Martian surface. This could be evidence of ancient lakes and water on the red planet.
According to Nathan Stain, a graduate student in Caltech Pasadena and leader of the investigation said that they examined the Old Soaker, on Lower Sharp. These could be the first mud cracks confirmed on Mars by the Curiosity mission. He said that the crack layers formed more than 3 billion years ago and then other layers of sediment buried them.
“Even from a distance, we could see a pattern of four- and five-sided polygons that don’t look like fractures we’ve seen previously with Curiosity,” Stein said. “It looks like what you’d see beside the road where the muddy ground has dried and cracked.” Said Nathan Stain
The mud cracks and then the cracks are filled with sediments
During the last weeks, scientists at NASA have been using the Curiosity Mars rover to examine slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges that likely originated as cracks in drying mud, these slabs are called ‘Old Soaker’, and they are about 4 feet long.
These mud cracks – technically called desiccation cracks – are to become the first crack found by Curiosity on Mars. What is more amazing is that this means that Mars had water in the past.
These cracks in dying mud originated 3 billion years ago, according to the scientist. They were buried by other layers of sediments until they became stratified rocks. Then wind erosion stripped away the layers above Old Soaker. Pressure from the accumulation of sediments can cause fractures in the rock.
However, these fractures are filled by minerals that come from groundwater circulating through the cracks. The scientists also analyzed These materials filling the cracks, and they said the cracks are mostly filled with windblown dust, sand and calcium sulfate.
“Even from a distance, we could see a pattern of four- and five-sided polygons that don’t look like fractures we’ve seen previously with Curiosity,” Stain said.
According to Stain, these are like the cracks that are formed beside the road where the muddy ground is cracked. As well, he said that these is a continuous process, where mud cracks, sediments accumulate on them, and then there is an episode of underground fracturing and vein forming, that has been going on over 3 billion years.
The ancient lakes varied in depth and extent
If this is true, then it is an evidence of lakes on the red planet. The ancient lakes varied in depth and extended over time, and they could sometimes disappear, according to Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. He also said that they are receiving more evidence of dry intervals in the lakes, which is a record of long-lived lakes.
Another type of cracks is the cross-bedding cracks. This cracking pattern is formed where water was flowing more vigorously near the shore of a lake, windblown sediment during a dry episode.
Source: Daily Mail