Information from NASA’s Curiosity Rover has recently revealed that wind on Mars may be responsible for shaping the planet’s Gale Crater.
Gale Crater was originally created when an asteroid or comet hit Mars and carved out the 96-mile-wide depression. The basin was then filled with rocks, sand and silt that was later eroded by wind.
Prominent swirling winds on Mars sculpt the mountainous landscape of the Red Planet. Scientists observed NASA’s Curiosity and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to determine that Martian winds have been moving sediment out of Gale Crater for years, leaving a nearly three and half mile-high mountain behind.
The layered mountain— known as Mount Sharp— is a major determining factor in shaping local wind patterns. The mountain was first formed by the winds that it now directs.
The Curiosity Rover will continue to study sand composition on the slopes of Mount Sharp.
“We’re keeping Curiosity busy in an area with lots of sand at a season when there’s plenty of wind blowing it around,” Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada said in a statement by NASA. “One aspect we want to learn more about is the wind’s effect on sorting sand grains with different composition. That helps us interpret modern dunes as well as ancient sandstones.”
Top Image: Pixabay, CC0
Chamberlain Smith is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.