NASA’s Curiosity Rover has solved a Mars Mountain Mystery.
NASA’s rover has managed to successfully take measurements of gravity on Mars in order to study and analyze the various rock layers on a mountain.
Using its onboard accelerometers and gyroscopes, scientists were able to measure the force of gravity as Curiosity ascended a mountain in the Gale Crater.
“This study is a little bit of the first of its kind,” explained study author Kevin Lewis of Johns Hopkins University.
!It’s the first gravity traverse on the surface of another planet other than the Earth and the moon.”
The results took scientists by surprise as it revealed that the density of the rock layers was much lower than previously thought.
Scientists revealed as the rover ascended Mount sharp, Maritan gravitational force increase, but it was significantly lower than expected.
“The lower levels of Mount Sharp are surprisingly porous,” said Lewis. 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 discovery has also provided scientist with a brand-new technique to use in the future, as Curiosity continues its long journey on the Martian surface.
As explained by NASA and noted in the new paper published in the journal Science, scientists used over 700 measurements taken by Curiosity’s accelerometers, recorded between October 2012 and June 2017.
Data was then calibrated to filter out “noise,” such as the effects of temperature and the tilt of the rover during its climb. The calculations were then compared to models of Mars’ gravity fields to ensure accuracy.
“We estimated a grain density of 2810 kilograms per cubic meter,” said researcher, Travis Gabriel.
“However the bulk density that came out of our study is a lot less – 1680 kilograms per cubic meter.”
“There are still many questions about how Mount Sharp developed, but this paper adds an important piece to the puzzle,” said study co-author Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. JPL manages the Mars Science Laboratory mission that Curiosity is a part of.
“I’m thrilled that creative scientists and engineers are still finding innovative ways to make new scientific discoveries with the rover,” he added.