Today's Image of Mars is of the lower portion of the central mound in Gale Crater. The central mound rises 5.5km above the northern crater floor and 4.5km above the southern crater floor and will be a prime target for Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity. The bottom of this image is actually the floor of the crater.
What's so special about Gale Crater's central mound?
Well the central mound is larger than any observed by a Mars rover before, which means that it contains more layers of deposits and will be able to tell scientists more about the ancient Martian past than ever before.
As you can see from the labels, the lowest portion of the mound is comprised of clays and sulfates, materials which are formed in the presence of water. The overlying layers contain sulfates, but very little clay, indicative of an environment in which water was evaporating and Mars was becoming drier.
Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity will examine these layers in an attempt to determine whether Mars was ever able to support life.
Clicking on this image will take you to the original image page from NASA.
|Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/USGS|