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spaceSpace and Physics

Curiosity Has Just Taken A Close-Up Look At Some Pretty Weird Mars Terrain

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockMar 23 2022, 15:22 UTC
This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3420. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3420. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Greenheugh pediment is an interesting plain in the Gale Crater on Mars. Orbital observations have revealed some pretty cool-looking terrains, which NASA’s Curiosity rover has been slowly investigating. The latest one to be photographed and sent home is called "gator-back" terrain and well, you can see why.

"Prior to arriving on the Greenheugh pediment, the team had been intrigued by the “washboard texture” preserved on its surface, as identified in orbital  images," Lauren Edgar wrote in a NASA mission update post. "Now that we’re here it’s quite surprising to see how rugged it is, and the informal description of this “gator-back terrain” seems very fitting!"

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The first image from this location, reached by Curiosity last weekend, shows sharp pyramid-like rocks separated by ridges. It's certainly got something reptilian about it, although we do not expect to find any crocodiles or alligators on the Red Planet. Curiosity is now scanning the rocky terrain to understand its composition and from there, scientists may be able to work out its formation.

gator back terrain mars curiosty
The "gator-back terrain" in all its glory. Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It will take multiple images that scientists back home can put together into larger mosaics to look at the rocky structures exposed on the gator-back ridge to understand the erosion happening here. Now that Mars has entered the dusty season, the rover will also take a "dust devil" survey while it's there too. 

Gale Crater used to be an ancient lake, and as Curiosity climbs its central peak – Mount Sharp – it is looking at older and older rocks, gaining new insights into what Mars was like billions of years ago.

Greenheugh pediment
A view from on top of Greenheugh pediment taken by curiosity in July 2020. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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