Science & Technology

No, this is not the gateway to Mars

A must-cam image from the Curiosity Rover on Mars captures what looks like a doorway to a ledge. It was formed when layered rocks were cracked and eroded. Courtesy NASA Mars Curiosity Rover Team.

Mars has many interesting geological features, not one of which is the side doorway of the sedimentary rocks on the side of Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons). In fact, there are no such doorways (probably created by aliens) on Mars.But there teeth A rock break that looks really, really one. The fact that it’s not a real doorway doesn’t stop much speculation about the appearance of images snapped by MastCam at Curiosity Rover in Sol 3466 (May 7, 2022). The obvious truth is that the strange-looking feature is actually a crevice in an ancient layer of sand that has solidified on the rock for millions of years. The combination of light, shadow and viewing angle makes it look like a door. But that’s not the case.

Close-ups of what is believed to be the gateway to Mars show rock structures, cracks in broken areas, and nearby sand deposits. Crop from Mastcam image by CC Petersen.

This is not the first time that strange “something” on Mars or elsewhere in our solar system (including Earth) has attracted people’s attention. People are familiar with the “face on Mars” anger at what is called the face of aliens on the planet. It turned out to be nothing more than an eroded mesa in the Sidonia region. But it didn’t stop the idea that the small cottage industry of writers and speakers pushed the idea that ancient aliens built it as a signal to us (or something). Subsequent missions that imaged the surface showed that Mars had no face. And there are no statues, spoons or other spooky things. In each case, the objects that people thought they saw were found to be ordinary rocks and rock formations.

Martian science gateway

A composite image of the Gail Crater Mount Sharp, created by NASA's Curiosity Rover in 2015. The rover is now at the top of an area called the Green Hupediment. "Mars doorway" It stimulated people's imagination. Credit NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS
A composite image of Mount Sharp in the Gail Crater created by NASA’s Curiosity Rover in 2015. Rover is now at the top of an area called the Green Hupediment of the Mountain, snapping an image of the exciting “Gateway to Mars”. Imagination. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

Mars has a lot of really cool features such as rock formations, riverbeds, volcanoes, and craters. They provide enough exciting science, so the mysterious “Imagination” that results from overly lively imagination and the very human tendency to shape and photograph from random or ambiguous visual scenes. “Vision” is not really necessary. (The jargon for that trend is Pareidolia.) Earlier, I explained that term. Story about the moon Other interesting objects in the universe.

In a sense, the rock feature, dubbed the “mysterious door” of Mars, gives us a brief review here about what Curiosity Rover has helped scientists discover. We are currently exploring the central mountain of the Gale Crater. There are some pretty familiar scenes out there, and their friendliness provides us with a gateway to understanding ancient and present Mars.

Recognize familiar things in the distant world

There are many sandstones and other sedimentary rocks on Mars, especially in areas of curiosity. They seem familiar to us because there are similar rocks here on Earth. Understanding how they were formed here opens the door to understanding how they were formed on Mars. A similar process was involved in both cases: water and wind deposition and erosion. By observing such substances at home and observing how they behave, you can get a good feel for what is happening to the “brother” rocks of Mars.

For example, if you are familiar with sandstone here on Earth, you know that sandstone can break into sharp shards very easily. Anyone with a sandstone walkway probably knows how fragile things are. So it’s not surprising to see similar types of rocks cracking and breaking on Mars. But seeing it crumble into such a strange shape certainly got a lot of attention. It can be used to learn more about Mars.

Understanding the geology of the “doorway of Mars”

The area where curiosity is currently passing is called Mount Sharp’s Green Hupediment. When Mastcam captured the image of “the doorway of Mars,” it saw a series of rocks that began to live as dunes. They were probably deposited by what geologists call the “aeeolian process.” It means “wind action”. Over time, they settled on hard rocks. Then, in one small area, something caused the rock to be destroyed in two places. It was probably not strange, perhaps a small Mars or other natural process. The block of rock eventually moved away, leaving what it looked like a door.

The Greenheugh Pediment is part of Mount Sharp, a mountain of sedimentary rocks 5.5 km high. Curiosity has crossed the pediment, studying the top layers of sandstone. There is also evidence of rocks containing clay in this area. Curiosity has found evidence of mudstone, a rock that can only be formed in the presence of water, just as it began climbing mountains a few years ago.

Bill mount sharp

The story of Mount Sharp has not yet been unfolded, but what planetary scientists believe has happened to form it is as follows: First, the Gail Crater was formed over 3.5 billion years ago when asteroids and comets collided with planets. Aeolis Mons is the central mountain of the crater, about 5.5 km high. (By comparison, the height of Mt. Everest on Earth is 8.8 km).

For millions of years, water flowed from the northern edge of the crater to the center. It deposited deposits on the floor of the crater. The flowing water created a pile of debris that made up Mount Sharp. Certainly, the action of the wind has also deposited some material in the area.

During the trek, curiosity is exploring the remains of the mounds that make up Mount Sharp. The discovery of rock crevices that look like the doorways of Mars is part of the rock exploration of Gail Craters and Mount Sharp.

Another mast cam view of eroded sedimentary rock (may have been deposited long ago on the lake floor of the Gale Crater). This scene is not far from where the water flowed into the lake. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS
Another mast cam view of eroded sedimentary rock (may have been deposited long ago on the lake floor of the Gale Crater). This scene is not far from where the water flowed into the lake. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

Curiosity opens the door to discovery

The Greenheugh Pediment exploration is just the latest in the Curiosity exploration. While on Mars, Rover was a true geological laboratory. It found evidence of the characteristics of the flow created by moist brine. (Brine is a salty liquid.) It also found clues to ancient lakes and streams that filled the crater. And it contributes to the bigger story of Water on Mars. It played a role in placing layers of hardened sedimentary rocks.

There have been many speculations that such lakes may have welcomed and nourished the life of microorganisms at one time. There is still no evidence that life existed. The quest for that life and the environment in which it can thrive is part of why NASA and others sent spacecraft to Mars. Despite the fact that this place is today a dry, dusty desert planet, its history still fascinates us. And if the rock breaks into an interesting shape when it is eroded and scattered, it may be good. It attracts people’s attention and creates our charm in the ever-changing story of the red planet.

For more information

A view of curiosity from the top of the Greenheugh pediment

Gail crater (Wikipedia)

Mars Curiosity Lander Page (NASA)

Sol 3466: Mastcam view of the “door” formation

How to make Mount Sharp

No, this is not the gateway to Mars No, this is not the gateway to Mars

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