Astronomy & Space

Gravity measurements shock Mars researchers – Astronomy Now

Gravity measurements surprise Mars researchers – Astronomy Now
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The Mars Curiosity Rover on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Using the accelerometers and gyroscopes on board the Curiosity Mars rover, researchers have measured delicate changes inside the tug of martian gravity as a result of the robotic has climbed the lower slopes of Mount Sharp, displaying the underlying rocks making up the 5.5-kilometre-tall (18,000 foot) mound of layered terrain are far more porous than initially thought.

Mount Sharp is the central attribute of Gale Crater, Curiosity’s landing web site, a towering mound rising 5.5 kilometres (18,000 ft) above the crater floor. The model new findings elevate modern questions on how the mound was common, indicating the crater won’t have been totally stuffed before now as beforehand thought.

“This study represents the first gravity traverse and measurement of rock density on Mars,” Nicholas Schmerr, a geologist on the School of Maryland, talked about in a launch describing the measurements. “The low density of rocks in Gale Crater implies that they did not bear deep burial.

“This could mean that Mount Sharp was not excavated by erosion, but rather was constructed by wind deposition and other processes. Either way, it seems that Mars has had the capability to lay down significant amounts of low-density sedimentary rocks that record a complex environmental history.”

The researchers have been able to attain that conclusion after analysing 5 years of data from Curiosity’s ultra-sensitive accelerometers, normally used to help resolve the rover’s orientation. When the rover is stationary, the accelerometers can even detect the slight tug on them attributable to the downward pull of Mars’ gravity.

A view of Gale Crater combining data from three Mars orbiters. The crater is 154 kilometres all through (94 miles) and features a towering mound of layered sediment at its center typically generally known as Mount Sharp. Curiosity landed inside the oval “footprint” to correct of center. The rover is now exploring the lower slopes of the Mount Sharp. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS

Higher than 700 archived accelerometer measurements recorded between October 2012 and June 2017 have been calibrated to take away the outcomes of temperature and Curiosity’s tilt and in distinction in opposition to fashions of the martian gravity topic. The outcomes moreover have been as compared with data collected by one different instrument that characterises crystalline minerals in quite a lot of rock samples to help resolve porosity.

“The lower levels of Mount Sharp are surprisingly porous,” talked about Kevin Lewis, a researcher at Johns Hopkins School and lead creator of the look at. “We know the bottom layers of the mountain were buried over time. That compacts them, making them denser. But this finding suggests they weren’t buried by as much material as we thought.”

The findings advocate Mount Sharp’s lower slopes have been compacted by decrease than 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) of overlying supplies as compared with 5 kilometres (three miles) if Gale Crater had been totally stuffed inside the distant earlier.

“There are still many questions about how Mount Sharp developed, but this paper adds an important piece to the puzzle,” talked about Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity mission scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “I’m thrilled that creative scientists and engineers are still finding innovative ways to make new scientific discoveries with the rover.”

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