More evidence of past water on Mars – an old streambed

From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, some exciting news of the “picture is worth a thousand words” variety - NASA Rover Finds Old Streambed on Martian Surface

This set of images compares the Link outcrop of rocks on Mars (left) with similar rocks seen on Earth (right). The image of Link, obtained by NASA’s Curiosity rover, shows rounded gravel fragments, or clasts, up to a couple inches (few centimeters), within the rock outcrop. Erosion of the outcrop results in gravel clasts that fall onto the ground, creating the gravel pile at left. The outcrop characteristics are consistent with a sedimentary conglomerate, or a rock that was formed by the deposition of water and is composed of many smaller rounded rocks cemented together. A typical Earth example of sedimentary conglomerate formed of gravel fragments in a stream is shown on the right. An annotated version of the image highlights a piece of gravel that is about 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) across. It was selected as an example of coarse size and rounded shape. Rounded grains (of any size) occur by abrasion in sediment transport, by wind or water, when the grains bounce against each other. Gravel fragments are too large to be transported by wind. At this size, scientists know the rounding occurred in water transport in a stream.

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s Curiosity rover mission has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence — images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels — is the first of its kind.

Scientists are studying the images of stones cemented into a layer of conglomerate rock. The sizes and shapes of stones offer clues to the speed and distance of a long-ago stream’s flow.  

“From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep,” said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley. “Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different hypotheses about the flows in them. This is the first time we’re actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it.”

The finding site lies between the north rim of Gale Crater and the base of Mount Sharp, a mountain inside the crater. Earlier imaging of the region from Mars orbit allows for additional interpretation of the gravel-bearing conglomerate. The imagery shows an alluvial fan of material washed down from the rim, streaked by many apparent channels, sitting uphill of the new finds.

The rounded shape of some stones in the conglomerate indicates long-distance transport from above the rim, where a channel named Peace Vallis feeds into the alluvial fan. The abundance of channels in the fan between the rim and conglomerate suggests flows continued or repeated over a long time, not just once or for a few years.

The discovery comes from examining two outcrops, called “Hottah” and “Link,” with the telephoto capability of Curiosity’s mast camera during the first 40 days after landing. Those observations followed up on earlier hints from another outcrop, which was exposed by thruster exhaust as Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory Project’s rover, touched down.

“Hottah looks like someone jack-hammered up a slab of city sidewalk, but it’s really a tilted block of an ancient streambed,” said Mars Science Laboratory Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The gravels in conglomerates at both outcrops range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Some are angular, but many are rounded.

“The shapes tell you they were transported and the sizes tell you they couldn’t be transported by wind. They were transported by water flow,” said Curiosity science co-investigator Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz.

The science team may use Curiosity to learn the elemental composition of the material, which holds the conglomerate together, revealing more characteristics of the wet environment that formed these deposits. The stones in the conglomerate provide a sampling from above the crater rim, so the team may also examine several of them to learn about broader regional geology.

The slope of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater remains the rover’s main destination. Clay and sulfate minerals detected there from orbit can be good preservers of carbon-based organic chemicals that are potential ingredients for life.

“A long-flowing stream can be a habitable environment,” said Grotzinger. “It is not our top choice as an environment for preservation of organics, though. We’re still going to Mount Sharp, but this is insurance that we have already found our first potentially habitable environment.”

During the two-year prime mission of the Mars Science Laboratory,esearchers will use Curiosity’s 10 instruments to investigate whether areas in Gale Crater have ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech, built Curiosity and manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

For more about Curiosity, visit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/msl , http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl .

You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity  and http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .

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If Curiosity finds some gold in that old stream bed, you know there will be a manned mission to Mars…gold fever and “go fever” are two strong forces for accelerating exploration, combined they’ll be irresistible.

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111 Responses to More evidence of past water on Mars – an old streambed

  1. Kev-in-Uk says:

    I would say it’s 99% likely an indication of water. However, to be truly scientific one should say that it could be derived from any ‘fluid’ transport! Will wait for the nutballs to come along and say it was the zurgons with a bloody big vax – hoovering up resources from the surface, etc, etc…..LOL

    From a more serious geological view, I’m more interested in the cementation or cementitious material and if this shows ‘how’ the fluid evaporated. Also, whether the conglomerate is just a thin crust or of singificant thickness..

  2. DAV says:

    Is water the only liquid?

  3. LC Kirk, Perth says:

    Looks like a couple of nice white quartz pebbles in there. Should dolly a chunk of it up and pan it for gold. Mars that looks so like Western Australia..

  4. Abd says:

    I think the scale on the images is incorrect. Maybe it is correct for the pictures but not for the stones.

  5. Imagine the uproar if Curiosity’s camera picks up something along the lines of a trilobite fossil impression!

    – MJM

  6. brandon says:

    If I didn’t known any better I would say it looks like a stream was present there recently.

  7. Ben D. says:

    That plan for a manned mission began in 1989, check out this plan for the 21st century from the Bush Snr presidency period..
    ….
    http://makezineblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/space-plan-scan-touched-up-001.pdf

  8. richardscourtney says:

    Friends:

    I am writing to ask a question in hope that someone can answer it for me.

    The information about the image says

    Rounded grains (of any size) occur by abrasion in sediment transport, by wind or water, when the grains bounce against each other. Gravel fragments are too large to be transported by wind. At this size, scientists know the rounding occurred in water transport in a stream.

    OK. I know nothing about how “rounding” occurs in water but I am very familiar with wear that occurs in fluidised beds of (mostly) silica sand.

    Gravity is less on Mars than on Earth so stones would roll along on Mars more easily than on Earth.

    Atmospheric density is much less on Mars than on Earth so winds of similar velocity would have much less force on Mars than on Earth. However, wind speeds are often much higher on Mars than on Earth. According to the Viking lander, on Mars the average wind speed is ~30 m/sec (108 km/hr, 67 mi/hr) and wind speeds of 80 m/sec (288 km/hr, 179 mi/hr) are not unusual. However, on Earth storms of more than 117 mi/hr are defined as hurricanes or typhoons and are rare.

    Wind energy increases as the cube of wind speed so the energy of Martian wind acting on small stones and gravel would often be comparable to the energy of Earth hurricanes acting on similar stones and gravel. Also, the lower gravity on Mars would make it easier for winds to lift sand and gravel from the surface to induce a moving fluidised bed of particulates despite the lower atmospheric density. Indeed, severe dust storms are observed on Mars.

    The potential for fluidisation of sand and gravel by Martian winds must be high especially when the winds are flowing through valleys. Hence, I would expect there to be occasional flows of fluidised sand and gravel moving over the Martian surface especially in valleys.

    So, my question to any geologists who may be so kind as to enlighten me is
    How does one distinguish between a Martian pebble that has been “rounded” by water and a Martian pebble that has been “rounded” by a fluidised flow of small particulates?

    Richard

  9. Mike McMillan says:

    Gravel pretty much confirms it. Wonder where it came from, rain maybe?

  10. Yes it is certainly a sedimentary deposit, water being the obvious choice of transport medium. I expect the deposit age will be found and a look higher up the sequence to find similar younger deposits and thus the time that water last flowed on the Martian surface, at least at the rover position.
    Wind blown deposits tend to be all of similar size with a frosted surface and certainly no larger than course sand.
    Good picture.

  11. Phil says:

    What I want to know is, who made that chunk of concrete, & when?

  12. Robert of Ottawa says:

    Where is the dust?

  13. Jimmy Haigh says:

    Nice. To clinch it I’d like to see evidence of sedimentary structures; cross bedding, ripples, laminations, grain size grading 9i.e., fining or coarsening upwards profiles) etc etc… Maybe these will come later…

  14. Quick answer for Richardscourtney. The bouncing of particles is called saltation and tends to break off the sharp edges. It happens in any media transport so water or wind but the saltation in wind blown sediments is more energetic, due to higher velocities in wind, and causes the frosted surface very noticable in earth’s wind blown sands, desert dune sands exhibit this very well. Water transported clasts tend not to be very well sorted, ie a good mix of small sandy particles and larger up to quite large boulders depending on the event that caused the deposit. Gravels do not need a very high velocity to get movement and there are graphs available, probably on the web, that show the relation between clast size and water velocity.
    We are assuming a river type deposit here but similar sorting occurs in turbidites forming Boumer sequences which are obvious to look at as being that type of deposit. The Mars picture does not look like that type of deposit but time will tell. Turbidites form in deep water and caused by an earthquake and driven by gravity. They can move very fast, in excess of 50mph/22.3m/s. Sorting occurs as the flow speed decays.
    (That was a quick answer)

  15. polistra says:

    I’m wondering if the surface gravel implies the possibility of an underground aquifer with water still in liquid form…….

  16. Dr Burns says:

    The only clear evidence is that to support the usual grab for more money to carry on investigating.

  17. Amos Mclean says:

    What are the Martian polar ‘ice’ caps made of?
    Could this “gravel” be evidence of fluid flows related to a previous ice age on Mars and retreating “glaciers”. The melting fluid doesn’t have to be water ….

  18. Petrossa says:

    Being totally out of my depth here, but can’t many liquids form rounded erosion? Does it have to be water?

  19. richardscourtney says:

    John Marshall:

    Sincere thanks for the answer to my question that you provide at September 28, 2012 at 2:30 am.

    I note that you said it was a “quick answer” and I do not doubt that: it was also a rapid reply and I appreciate that, too.

    Clearly, such a “quick answer” leaves much unsaid, and there is one point I would like expanded please. In the interim, I will do as you say and conduct a web search but – not being a geologist – my understanding gained from such a search may be incorrect.

    Your brief explanation of “mixing” and size sorting is interesting: I am reminded of the gradation of particle sizes along the length of the Chesil Beach in Dorset. But the effects as you report them seem very similar to what happens in a fluidised bed of particulates which is fluidised by air (for interest, I outline a nice – and fun – demo as a PS to this post).

    Also, although the lifting force for particulates is high initially, once fluidisation of small particles initiates then additional fluidisation is easily developed because the fluidised bed has higher density (so more momentum) than air so can lift larger particles.

    Hence, it seems to me that the distinction between “rounding” from water and particulate fluidisation has to be made on the basis of the surface morphology differences which you mention. I am not disputing that, but I know I would need to use an SEM to discern such surface differences between a pebble found on a beach or formed in a fluidised bed of silica sand.

    So, I would be grateful if you were willing to expand on the morphological differences you would expect, please. And I stress that my request for more information is an indication of my sincere gratitude for what you have told me.

    Richard

    A simple fluidisation demo

    Fix a gauze across the inside of a bucket (metal or plastic) such that the gauze creates a shallow lower chamber near the bottom of the bucket. The gauze can be positioned by spacers around the inside of the bottom of the bucket and can be retained in position using duct tape.

    Pierce a hole through the side of the bucket below the level of the gauze and seal a pipe through the hole. Connect an air valve to the end of the pipe.

    Place a lightweight object on the gauze (e.g. a plastic duck) then cover it with sand. Much sand can be used but the bucket must NOT be filled (the level of the top of the sand will rise when fluidised).

    Place a heavy object (e.g. a large ball bearing) on top the sand.

    Connect the valve to a compressed air supply. A suitable air compressor exists at most car filling stations and is provided for pumping up car tyres.

    Switch on the air supply then slowly open the valve.

    Initially nothing happens, then as the air supply is increased, incipient fluidisation occurs and the back pressure drops.

    Slowly increase the air supply and true fluidisation is obtained. The bed expands so the level of the sand rises. The heavy weight sinks to the bottom and the light weight floats to the top.

    In this situation it is simple to put one’s hand down through the sand and to retrieve the heavy weight so it can again be shown to sink. (If the air supply is turned off then the light weight sits on the sand and it is difficult to push a hand down through the sand.)

    Continue to increase the air supply and turbulent fluidisation occurs. Voids filled with air (known as “bubbles” although they are not bubbles) flow up through the fluidised bed. The voids burst at the surface of the bed and throw sand into the air. Mixing is severe within the bed.

    An object exposed in a fluidised bed of silca sand can experience rapid wear especially if the bed is turbulent. Both abrasion and erosion occur as a result of interaction with the particles so both hard and soft materials suffer surface loss.

    The demo is simple and fun. It is especially amusing when shown to children if the floated object is a plastic duck which they did not know was at the bottom of the sand.

  20. D. Patterson says:

    Ben D. says:
    September 28, 2012 at 1:21 am
    That plan for a manned mission began in 1989, check out this plan for the 21st century from the Bush Snr presidency period..

    Planning and engineering studies for a real manned mission to Mars began with Wehrner Von Braun’s Mars Project at various stages in 1946, 1948, 1952, 1956, other intervening years, and 1969. The 1969 planning set a date in 1987 for the landing on Mars, but it too was cancelled like all preceding plans due to the lack of political support. Those of us lobbying Congress and the White House for funding in 1971 barely succeeded in securing funding for the development of the Space Shuttle (STS). We were unable to save the funding for the final Apollo Lunar missions, much less find any bipartisan support for a Martian flight programme.

    Later manned missions to Mars suffered similar fates with the lack of political will and support in Congress.

  21. Tony Mach says:

    DAV says:
    Is water the only liquid?

    No.

    But what other potentially liquid substances are there on Mars to account for this?

    Well there is lots of water in the soil in and around the polar caps.

    And all of the chemistry findings so far (by all orbiters and all the rovers) say that there has been liquid water in the past. We’ll see what Curiosity finds, as she has an geo-chem lab on board.

    There was extensive talk about this on the Planetfest 2012, you should look at the videos!

    So I think streams of liquid water are the “better” explanation (cf. Occams Razor) for all the evidence that was gather – better than alternatives like say CO2 (which may account for some of the contemporary landslides in dunes).

  22. John Marshall, that is a “Bouma” sequence.

    In answer to Richardscourtney, There is a feature of aeolian sedimentation know as ‘desert pavement’, wherein all but the coarsest clasts are moved by the wind, leaving a surface armored with sandblasted pebbles and cobbles. This surface resists further wind erosion.

    The postulated fluidization would have two populations of clasts; those which move by saltation or bedload and those that move by suspension. The suspended portion would eventually outrun the bedload, as it does in a turbidite. A resulting horizon anywhere in the deposit would be relatively well sorted, with grain size diminishing upward and downflow.

    The pictures show what appears to be a well-indurated AND poorly sorted rock, with larger clasts suspended in a finer matrix. Such poor sorting indicates that the mechanisms of sorting were episodic, not sustained, that all available material was moving at once, as in a debris flow or flash flood. Gravels that form in sustained and long-lived flows tend to be well sorted, with clasts imbricated against each other. There doesn’t appear to be much of this fabric in the indurated part.

    Rounding requires sustained abrasion, and is proportional to grain size (mass) and distance of transport. Rounding may occur in many episodes of transport, deposition, erosion and transport.

    The induration requires some form of cement, and if the composition of the cement can be determined, then one can narrow down the candidates for the fluid phase. Suffice it to say that the fluid had to have a viscosity and kinetic energy able to move poorly sorted sediment, and was probably a liquid.

  23. wayne Job says:

    As some one else mentioned where is the dust, that concretion looks like it has been pressure washed or vacuumed for the photo shoot.?

  24. Hector Pascal says:

    @richardscourtney

    There’s no definitive answer to you question. Rocks which have been eroded by wind driven sand are called ventifacts. On Earth, these have distinctive concave “scalloped” surfaces and they are quite common in desert areas. I would be looking for these features in boulders too heavy to be moved by wind, or fixed outcrops. The Sphinx is probably the best known example of a ventifact.

    I don’t know of ventifacts being rounded like the example above, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Diagnostic features of channel deposits include poor sorting, laterally discontinuous bedding and numerous erosion (cut and fill) surfaces. In grave/cobble dominated braided systems, (essentially transport fluid poor, sediment-rich) actual cross bedding may be quite rare.

    This one looks quite convincing, but I’d like to see longer sections across and down stream. I wonder what the conglomerate cement is. Calcite? Gypsum?

  25. Gary says:

    Any trout?

  26. richardscourtney says:

    Friends:

    I write to provide thanks to all who have attempted to answer my question. I hope others will also try to help my understanding.

    I am minded that confirmation bias is always a problem which is difficult to avoid.

    I am material scientist who is very familiar with wear in fluidised beds so when I look at that photograph I see what looks like a slumped fluidised bed. Indeed, what I am seeing on that photograph looks very like a slumped fluidised bed. This is possibly my confirmation bias: I see what I know.

    And I have seen videos of fluidised beds with high flow rates happening naturally on Earth; i.e. pyroclastic flows from volcanoes and Alpine avalanches. So, I find no difficulty imagining such fluidised beds running across the surface of Mars with its lower gravity and higher wind speeds.

    You geologists helping me to learn about this Martian deposit are very familiar with sedimentary deposits. When you look at the photograph you see what looks like a sedimentary deposit. And your knowledge of geological processes is much greater than mine will ever be, so your interpretation is probably right. But, of course, you may have a confirmation bias, too.

    Your responses to me have all been considered, helpful and informative. I am truly grateful for each of them. But, so far, your responses amount to “It looks like a duck” when I am saying “It looks like a goose”. I would like a response akin to “It quacks like a duck, and does not honk like a goose”.

    Richard

  27. KevinM says:

    Temperatures on Mars range -87 to 0 degrees C. How does water form and flow in an environment like that?Could this be super-well-preserved 5 billion year old remains from the heat of planet formation, or a giant solar flare or something?

  28. Joe Guerk says:

    Given mars’s low gravity, and thus low air pressure, how long can water remain liquid?

    Should we be imagining that mars at one time had roaring rivers and huge lakes? Or did the water boil off as soon as it seeped out of the ground? Or what?

  29. richardscourtney says:

    Tony Mach:

    At September 28, 2012 at 3:48 am you write

    DAV says:

    Is water the only liquid?

    No.

    But what other potentially liquid substances are there on Mars to account for this?

    With respect, it does not need to be a liquid: it needs to be a viscous fluid.

    This is why I am asking the geologists to try to educate me as to why the pebbles were not “rounded” by an abrasive fluid bed of sand that is fluidised by the Martian CO2 atmosphere flowing (or successively flowing) across the Martian surface.

    Please note that such a fluidised flow would be much more abrasive and erosive than a flow of water.

    Richard

  30. Randy says:

    Fantastic! And fun to see the Geologists on WUWT have a subject they can work. I think it looks like typical water transported worn cobbles. I’ve seen enough of those having spent 4 weeks mapping geology out in the Imperial Formation by Anza Borrego. Windblown sand eroded cobbles have distinct scaloping – i see a lot of that on hikes in the surrounding hills. And sand blasted and chemically etched beer bottles that are extraodinarly beautiful objects considering their humble origins. I do question the statement – “Gravel fragments are too large to be transported by wind. “. Up here in the north Mojave we have our “3/4 inch” days when wind blown pebbles take out your windshield! On those days it’s best to stay home and wonder when the roof is going to go.

  31. Curious says:

    I’m not sure this has merit, but have been reading in a few places that NASA has photo-shopped some of the photos of Gale Crater. What do you think? Possibility or hoax?
    http://www.earthfiles.com/news.php?ID=2015&category=Science

  32. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    richardscourtney says:

    September 28, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Friends:

    There you go, experience is worth more than a science degree!

  33. richardscourtney says:

    Kelvin Vaughan:

    Please explain your ridiculous comment at September 28, 2012 at 6:45 am which has no relationship of any kind to my post which you cite.

    Richard

  34. David S says:

    Obviously Mars’ atmosphere and all water was destroyed by global warming brought on by all those bloody SUVs http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d8/NASA_Mars_Rover.jpg/250px-NASA_Mars_Rover.jpg

  35. Robert Wille says:

    All those SUV’s on Mars sure have caused some climate change!

  36. _Jim says:

    Curious says September 28, 2012 at 6:36 am

    I’m not sure this has merit, but have been reading in a few places that NASA has photo-shopped some of the photos of Gale Crater. What do you think? …
    http://www.earthfiles.com/news.php?ID=2015&category=Science

    Is the con-spira-acy industry alive and well or what?

    If a simple, Occam’s Razor-class explanation (e.g. a simple mistake by NASA in labeling pics) develops please, by all means, keep us informed.

    .

  37. Mr Lynn says:

    Writes Anthony:

    If Curiosity finds some gold in that old stream bed, you know there will be a manned mission to Mars…gold fever and “go fever” are two strong forces for accelerating exploration, combined they’ll be irresistible.

    I have long said that if we find gold on the Moon, we’ll be back there in a heartbeat. Same goes for the rest of the Solar System, though it may take two or three heartbeats. Nothing like a little economic incentive to spur exploration—and settlement.

    Recommended reading: John Lewis, Mining The Sky: Untold Riches From The Asteroids, Comets, And Planets: http://www.amazon.com/Mining-The-Sky-Asteroids-Planets/dp/0201328194

    I know nothing of geology, but my first reaction was similar to Richard Courtney’s: winds on Mars are fierce, sandstorms common, and a strong-enough wind can lift even a good-sized pebble. However, I think they are saying that the bed of pebbles fragmented off the conglomerates. Wind and sand could have done that, but could the conglomerates have formed outside of water?

    Does Curiosity have equipment that would enable its handlers to determine how old those conglomerates are?

    /Mr Lynn

  38. P. Solar says:

    [snip . . not funny, or clever . . mod]

    An, an, and if they don’t start to listen to me soon I’ll hold my breath until I make myself sick.

    THEN I’ll launch an on-line survey !!!!!

  39. Fred Jensen says:

    KevinM asked “Temperatures on Mars range -87 to 0 degrees C. How does water form and flow in an environment like that?”. Simple answer – medieval warm period!

  40. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    A streambed? Good. We found out what happened to a cat on Mars. Maybe now we can find out about the catfish!

  41. Hector Pascal says:

    @richardscourtney

    “This is why I am asking the geologists to try to educate me as to why the pebbles were not “rounded” by an abrasive fluid bed of sand that is fluidised by the Martian CO2 atmosphere flowing (or successively flowing) across the Martian surface.”

    That is a possibility. Outside my experience, but I haven’t done a lot of field work on Mars. Flow regime is a vast subject, from rockfall at one end to anastomosing rivers at the other. It is complicated by the probabilty that within a given system, you will find incorporated clasts that have been shaped in another (inheritance). Sometimes there are no easy answers.

    One thing experience has taught me is that normally you can’t solve “the problem” from one exposure. As I mentioned above, I would like to see much more comprehensive sections in order to have any confidence in a given interpretation.

    Don’t underestimate the abrasiveness of stream flow. It’s not just water moving, but the bedload and suspended load too. In mountain valleys, for example, you can find nicely rounded outcrop and boulders that haven’t moved very far at all.

    In short, nice image but not definitive.

  42. P. Solar says:

    [snip . . mod]

    I bet they think if they told us that CO2 could… no well maybe that’s going a bit far.

  43. bregmata says:

    If the mars landings were faked, then climate change is not happening. Maybe we need a survey….

  44. AndyG55 says:

    “But what other potentially liquid substances are there on Mars to account for this? ”

    umm.. do you mean liquid, or fluid ?

    very fine dust suspended in rivulets of air is a possibility, maybe?

  45. Björn says:

    I do not know if I am wrong about this , but I remember being told a decades or two ago that the stuff that the colour of Marz was mainly caused by the fact that its surface material had a high content of ferrosulfid and remember thinking “ah so it is an hell of rustheap , maybe the biggest one in ever seen the neighbourhood ” and then surmising that it must have had at least some water (and maybe an hell of a lot of it ) , because the only process I knew of that could make Iron rust requier’s , that it is in some contact with water (liquid or gaseous ). This was a few years before NASA managed to land a crawler there , and the guy who told this snippet about the ferrosulfid said this fact came from a number of spectroscopic analysis of light reflections from itś surface, and I was not intrested enough to try to verify his word about this, just took it as good solid truth. I do not know if it still holds or if the rovers have found the surface to be something else than rusty,in fact I have not given this any thought for quite a number of years, but if marz is really rusty , the I think it lends some credence to the hypothesis that it was also a little wet onse upon a time.

  46. P. Solar says:

    P. Solar says: “The 100 mph winds will soon be common place on Earth too. ”

    Oops, I just checked with Professor Yackel, expert climatologist/geologist at U. Calgary, and that should have read “one million mph winds”. My bad. ;)

  47. b a cullen says:

    This stream bed doesn’t appear to be any different from those seen in many years of photos from the other Mars rovers. Some even show puddles and recent flow, i.e. hrs vs. “millions” of years here. If you can believe it, there are photo’s from orbit of ponds and lakes, apparently unfrozen.
    Remember, the comments are from Never A Straight Answer/JPL.

  48. Chuck Nolan says:

    This is why I come to WUWT.
    cn

  49. Steve P says:

    The abundance of channels in the fan between the rim and conglomerate suggests flows continued or repeated over a long time, not just once or for a few years.

    …with my emphasis on repeated

    Hmmm. Episodes of ice sheets on Earth, floods on Mars…

  50. David Ball says:

    Böehm, you are the bomb !!

  51. mysterian says:

    It seems to me that since the water flow velocity is from the potential energy available (mgh) and g on Mars is about 1/3 of g on earth then the slope ( available h) must be about 3 times greater on Mars to get the same velocity.

  52. Chris Schoneveld says:

    A conglomerate is the worst kind of sediment for fossilized remains.

  53. P. Solar says:

    Oh, come on , they don’t think we’re gonna fall for a cheap trick photo like that , do they?
    http://i45.tinypic.com/sey39y.jpg

    Ursa Bogus was more convincing.

  54. Ged says:

    @Mike McMillan

    Mars’ water seems to be all locked up under the surface. Likely this was a aquifer spring. It’s near a volcanic mountain (I believe), so the water might have been heated and forced above the surface back when the volcano was active. Now, it’s all dead.

  55. G. Karst says:

    Chris Schoneveld says:
    September 28, 2012 at 9:09 am

    A conglomerate is the worst kind of sediment for fossilized remains.

    That may be, but I’m pretty sure I see embedded bits of sea shells in the Earth gravel. Would not moist gravel on Earth contain thriving colonies of bacteria, amoebas, and other life forms. Seems like microscopic examination might be worthwhile, but I am certainly not an expert, of any sorts. GK

  56. This is one of my favorite images from Mars.
    From Opportunity at Cape St. Vincent, Victoria Crater. June 28, 2007, Sol 1167.
    The link is to a medium resolution 126K image, heavily color enhanced.
    There is lots of cross bedding, angular unconformities marking several depositional and erosional events. Squyres thinks it is eolian and he is the expert. (Note well Figs 4 and 8.)

    But I can make a case that the thick, cross bedded body(s) are part of a point bar sandstone (river) deposit with at least one “U” shaped scour mark at the base of some units. (right hand side of the outcrop). The scours would argue for a fluvial environment.
    I’ve had great fun showing it to geologist and geophysicist friends asking them to guess where it is from.

  57. Kev-in-Uk says:

    As a geologist, I agree that the potential rounding of the pebbles/gravel can indeed be aeolian in origin. Indeed, if surface storms/winds are/were possible with Mars past atmosphere they could cause such weathering.
    The photo shows very little of any potential depositional process(es) and it is that which really defines the water/air difference.
    On the reasonable assumption that the concrete like conglomerate is the source of the pebbles, we have to ask what cause the pebbles to ‘erode’ out of the conglomerate. Logically in the current Mars environs, we could expect this to be ancient aeolian (from past atmosphere)? – but it could also be caused by some form of solifluction/thermal expansion and contraction process?
    My comment (curiously the first?) was written because in order to have a ‘cemented’ or ‘bound’ conglomerate as suggested by the picture – you would have to have some fluid based depositional or evaporative process to enable mineralisation ‘around’ the pebbles (however they were rounded).
    hope that makes sense to non-geology types!
    In summary, more data/photos is/are required!
    regards
    Kev

  58. alexwade says:

    At what temperature is carbon dioxide a liquid? I ask this because it seems like I read that Mars has CO2 ice caps. Mars further away from the sun than earth and thus colder. I would think any water would always be frozen on the planet. So where did the water go? I really am just wondering if the rivers weren’t water rivers but some other gas in liquid form, such as carbon dioxide. I really don’t know, but I do think it is a big assumption to say what the rover sees was caused by a water river.

  59. John Mason says:

    Stephen, indeed. Having said which, this week’s images from Mars are – frankly – amazing. I suspect many fascinating things are to come. The nature of the mineralogical weathering – and indeed the mineralogy of the cement – are big questions to which we may get answers….

    I’ve seen similar transitions in post-glacial-max alluvial systems in which I have dug gold – Afon Wen in N Wales is a classic in terms of its sedimentary history – glacial, fluvioglacial and post-fluvioglacial and that is simply a record of the last deglaciation!

    Off to bed though – cheers!

  60. Mark Luedtke says:

    The pictures are similar, but it seems a tremendous leap to conclude the Martian picture could only formed by a long running stream of water. I’m skeptical.

  61. Paul Marko says:

    The first thing to note is that you’re viewing an unconformity, and processes that took place during two different periods of time. The pebble circled may, or may not have originated from the consolidated bed on the right. The bed on the right is an outcrop of a cemented matrix pebble conglomerate. This implies that it was transported, deposited, buried, compacted, and cemented while saturated with water.
    It has now been exposed to the surface either through uplift or erosion of the overlying beds. The pebble circled is either a product of erosion, or exfoliation of the pebble conglomerate, or a transport from a separate source.
    The shadow beneath the outcrop shows that the conglomerate bed has been eroded and undercut by either wind or water, and the circled pebble a product of that erosion.

  62. Gunga Din says:

    Anything that moves one solid against another will put wear on those solids and so “smooth” them. We know there is wind on Mars. We know there is fine dust on Mars.
    Do we knowthere is something else on Mars that could have smoothed that pebble? Not yet. More data is needed before a conclusion is possible.
    (Maybe the next “Curiosity” should include a microscope instead of catnip?8-)

  63. KevinM says:

    alexwade,

    On Earth, CO2 deposits directly to a solid at temperatures below −78 °C and the solid sublimes directly to a gas above −78 °C. Mars is lower pressure, but probably still does sublimation/deposition on Mars (need more pressure for liquid state, not less).

    Too cold for liquid water, too little pressure for liquid CO2. The volcano idea sounded possible to me. Might make it warm enough to make a water river for a while.

    The conspiracy talk here really scares me. Exactly why should we suspect NASA would be faking martian geology pictures?

  64. Gunga Din says:

    alexwade says:
    September 28, 2012 at 11:47 am
    At what temperature is carbon dioxide a liquid? I ask this because it seems like I read that Mars has CO2 ice caps. Mars further away from the sun than earth and thus colder. I would think any water would always be frozen on the planet. So where did the water go? I really am just wondering if the rivers weren’t water rivers but some other gas in liquid form, such as carbon dioxide. I really don’t know, but I do think it is a big assumption to say what the rover sees was caused by a water river.
    =======================================================================
    I can’t answer your question but I can offer some information.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Carbon_dioxide_pressure-temperature_phase_diagram.svg&page=1
    This is a chart of the “triple point” of CO2. Under certain condition of pressure and temperature CO2 can be a gas, a liquid or a solid. I do not know if the conditions on Mars would allow CO2 to be a liquid. It has a low enough temperature at times. I don’t know about the pressure but I assume the pressure would be higher in lower areas such as craters and valleys.

  65. Steve P says:

    Of course wind could have played a role (roll?) in shaping the rocks, but not in creating either the channels or the alluvial fan.

    It is my opinion that there is some cosmic force – either undetected, or whose effect is unrecognized – that is responsible for significant (climatic) changes on Earth and Mars (and probably other cosmic bodies, as well) ; a kind of Deus ex Machina, or, Opprimere ab Aethere (Force from the Aether), if you will.

  66. Kev-in-Uk says:

    Paul Marko says:
    September 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm
    ”The first thing to note is that you’re viewing an unconformity” – not necessarily, the conglomerate could simply be an evaporitic ‘surface’ crust of the main deposit?

  67. Kev-in-Uk says:

    KevinM says:
    September 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm
    alexwade,

    ”The conspiracy talk here really scares me. Exactly why should we suspect NASA would be faking martian geology pictures?”

    why not – they like to fake earth temps – well, at least adjust them without apparent reason!

  68. Kev-in-Uk says:

    one other thought occurred to me – based on the ‘theory’ of possible remnant martian water frozen below the surface – and that would be the heat of an impact object, locally freezing water to allow a localized temporary water ‘source’?
    with apologies to the League of Gentlemen! (Brits only I guess?)

  69. Ric Werme says:

    KevinM says:
    September 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    On Earth, CO2 deposits directly to a solid at temperatures below −78 °C and the solid sublimes directly to a gas above −78 °C. Mars is lower pressure, but probably still does sublimation/deposition on Mars (need more pressure for liquid state, not less).

    Careful – CO2 sublimation (just like water frost and sublimation) depends on the partial pressure of the CO2 (or water). One of the biggest battles at WUWT was on the question does CO2 frost occur at Vostok Station in Antarctica.

    Water vapor does not deposit as frost at say -10°C unless the dewpoint (frostpoint, actually, it’s a little different!) is also at -10° C or higher (supersaturated).

    Too cold for liquid water, too little pressure for liquid CO2.

    Today. Mars likely had a thicker atmosphere a billion years ago. I don’t know how thick or what the composition was.

  70. CO2 cannot exist at any temperature below 5 atm
    http://stevengoddard.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/co2_phase_diagram.gif

    So if mars had an environment that could allow for liquid CO2, a thicker atmosphere than Earth is likely to have had at least since the Cretaceous, then I think it likely that liquid water would be likely. Theoretically, it is possible to have liquid CO2 and no liquid water, But it must be in high pressure > 5 atm, high CO2 concentration and between -56 and 0 deg C.

  71. Paul Marko says:

    Kev-in-Uk says:
    September 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Paul Marko says:
    September 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm
    ”The first thing to note is that you’re viewing an unconformity” – not necessarily, the conglomerate could simply be an evaporitic ‘surface’ crust of the main deposit?

    If so, it’s not obvious from a photo. At least, we’re both talking about water.

  72. Kev-in-Uk says:

    Kev-in-Uk says:
    September 28, 2012 at 1:19 pm
    typo, sorry, should be locally unfreezing trapped water

  73. Jimmy Haigh says:

    One thingwe we need to know is this: what are the pebbles made of? If they are made of sedimentary rocks the chances are that they are water derived. If they are made of igneous rocks they may very well be of volcanic origin – but they could still be volcanic rocks reworked in a fluvial environment. We also need to know the gross morphology of the conglomerate bed: the shape of the bed will help us to figure out its origin.

    This is an extremely fascinating subject. I made a post on Facebook in which I said that I would love to be the first geologist on a field trip to Mars. This suggestion was poo-pooed by one of the very few conspiracy theorists I know…

  74. Jimmy Haigh says:

    I’ve had another look at the photo and I’ll write more later. There is so much to see. I’ll have more time over the weekend.

  75. Mr Lynn says:

    Here is a somewhat wider view of the image above:

    http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/images/?ImageID=4719

    NASA says:

    In this image from NASA’s Curiosity rover, a rock outcrop called Link pops out from a Martian surface that is elsewhere blanketed by reddish-brown dust. The fractured Link outcrop has blocks of exposed, clean surfaces. Rounded gravel fragments, or clasts, up to a couple inches (few centimeters) in size are in a matrix of white material. Many gravel-sized rocks have eroded out of the outcrop onto the surface, particularly in the left portion of the frame. The outcrop characteristics are consistent with a sedimentary conglomerate, or a rock that was formed by the deposition of water and is composed of many smaller rounded rocks cemented together. Water transport is the only process capable of producing the rounded shape of clasts of this size. [my emphasis]

    Still seems to me, based on the foregoing discussion, that the more definitive question is: what else (besides water) could have produced the conglomerate?

    /Mr Lynn

  76. alexwade says:

    Thanks for your responses. From what I see, and I could be wrong, the atmospheric pressure of Mars will not allow CO2 to become a liquid. That answers my question.

    I’m not saying NASA faked these pictures. But I still find it hard to believe that water caused this ancient river. The only thing I can think of is if this really are water sculpted rocks then it would have to be early in the planet’s formation. I do think NASA has fallen into the trap of many scientists today in that they start with the answer they want and then try to match the facts to make it true.

  77. Steve P says:

    alexwade says:
    September 28, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    But I still find it hard to believe that water caused this ancient river.The only thing I can think of is if this really are water sculpted rocks then it would have to be early in the planet’s formation. I do think NASA has fallen into the trap of many scientists today in that they start with the answer they want and then try to match the facts to make it true.

    The bigger trap is in thinking that ours is a static universe. A little familiarity with Earth’s geology would quickly dispel that faulty notion.

    But the biggest trap is rejection of empirical evidence in favor of dogma, or bogus beliefs.

  78. Ric Werme says:

    Gunga Din says:
    September 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    > (Maybe the next “Curiosity” should include a microscope instead of catnip?8-)

    From http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/fact_sheets/mars-science-laboratory.pdf :

    Mounted on the arm, the Mars Hand Lens Imager takes extreme close-up pictures of rocks, soil and, if present, ice, revealing details smaller than the width of a human hair. It can also focus on hard-to-reach objects more than an arm’s length away. The principal investigator is Kenneth Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego.

  79. Gunga, I would think that Curiosity must have *some* degree of microphotographic capabilities. Heck, I can take pics of a bug with my cheap little camera that just about show the hairs on a fly’s legs etc. Closeup pics are not a high tech thing nowadays.

    The “dust as fluid” concept seems to hold water though (no pun intended!). Hundreds of millions of years of fine wind/dust erosion might be hard to distinguish from millions of years of water erosion.

    – MJM

  80. Ric Werme says:

    Kev-in-Uk says:
    September 28, 2012 at 11:31 am

    On the reasonable assumption that the concrete like conglomerate is the source of the pebbles, we have to ask what cause the pebbles to ‘erode’ out of the conglomerate.

    We also have to ask how long that conglomerate has been exposed! While Mars is more active than the Moon, thin air, lack of water, and lack of tectonic processes could must leave a lot of things exposed for many millions of years.

    I am rather impressed that wherever we drop in we don’t have have to go far to find signs of water on Mars. Perhaps the next mission should aim for a shallow sea and look for stromatolite fossils.

  81. Gunga Din says:

    Ric Werme says:
    September 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm
    =======================================
    Thanks.
    I wonder if they’ll try to turn the pebble over to see what the underside looks like?

  82. Gunga Din says:

    The Earth picture was of a streambed so, obviously the effect of flowing water. Are there similar looking pictures from, say, Egypt or another desert area showing the effect of wind and dust?
    I’m not being suspicious (as I’ve been of CAGW ever since AlGore joined the chorus), just skeptical.

  83. _Jim says:

    Gunga Din says September 28, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    The Earth picture was of a streambed so, …

    ‘Stream beds’ in my part of Texas (north central) take on the appearance of miniature ‘Grand Canyons’ where the water/stream bed is 20 feet or so below ground level and with the water (at low flow rates) flowing in/through its etched-out limestone bed … so it would follow that the stream bed on Mars exists in a land area more like what we have in the more northern states as where the Wisconsin Glacier ’tilled’ the soil and gravel exists?

    .

  84. Gunga Din says:

    Stephen Rasey says:
    September 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm
    CO2 cannot exist at any temperature below 5 atm
    http://stevengoddard.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/co2_phase_diagram.gif

    So if mars had an environment that could allow for liquid CO2, a thicker atmosphere than Earth is likely to have had at least since the Cretaceous, then I think it likely that liquid water would be likely. Theoretically, it is possible to have liquid CO2 and no liquid water, But it must be in high pressure > 5 atm, high CO2 concentration and between -56 and 0 deg C.
    ===================================================================
    I think you meant “liquid CO2 cannot exist at any temperature below 5 atm”.

  85. Gunga Din says:

    We’ve only been able to observe Mars weather for a short period of time. We don’t know what Mars past climate was like. If only “Curiosity” could only find a tree ring ……………

  86. Bill Parsons says:

    Looks like a sedimentary deposit. Here’s a question for a geologist: would sedimentary rocks formed in 1/3 Earth gravity have less density than on Earth? How about igneous?

  87. Gunga Din says:

    I don’t think anyone who has noticed my comments on WUWT would mistake me for an expert on much of anything. From what little think I know there are a lot of dust storms on Mars. Wouldn’t it have been filled in with dust if this was an ancient streambed formed by flowing water?
    Just asking questions as they occur to me.

  88. Gunga Din says:

    Another typo.
    “From what little think I know there are a lot of dust storms on Mars.”
    Should be:
    “From what little I think I know there are a lot of dust storms on Mars.”
    (Maybe I am an expert on making typos?)

  89. greenschist says:

    To: Bill Parsons
    “How about igneous?”.
    Bill, that was my first thought, perhaps an ash flow deposit/ ignimbrite/ agglomerate, possibly slumping off a crater wall to soften the particle edges.
    The rock looks cemented- on another (more familiar!) planet its usually water based solutions moving through the unconsolidated rock that introduce the cement.
    Fascinating, wish they could bring it back.

  90. andyd says:

    | Curious says:
    | September 28, 2012 at 6:36 am
    | I’m not sure this has merit, but have been reading in a few places that NASA has photo-shopped
    | some of the photos of Gale Crater. What do you think? Possibility or hoax?
    | http://www.earthfiles.com/news.php?ID=2015&category=Science

    The images are composed from multiple smaller images, taken from different angles and lighting conditions. A computer program stitches them together to attempt a coherent whole. This can involve, stretching, rotating, shearing, and tries to pin any shifts based on identifiable common features in neighboring photos. Sometimes it goes wrong. If people tell them at NASA, they will try to manually correct the errors.

  91. thingadonta says:

    “At this size, scientists know the rounding occurred in water transport in a stream”

    Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but milled hydrothermal breccias in volcanic terrains frequently produce rounded cobble and much larger size rounded fragments, and there are volcanoes on Mars which also produce hydrothermal breccias. No surface water is necassary to produce rounded fragments in volanic hydrothermal breccias.

  92. There is no doubt that water, or rather brine (water with a high concentration of salt) is present below ground on the Red Planet. Neither is there any doubt that crude oil is also present on the planet, remember this is the next common fluid on Earth. For evidence take a look at: http://www.oilonmars.blogspot.no/

    The question is really when, or how often does the water come up to the surface and ‘daylight’ on Mars? There is evidence of stream flow of water many places of Mars. However, because water is not stable in Mars’ atmosphere it will evaporate very fast on exposure. Therefore, any stream of brine that survives for many days will have to be of great volume and will probably be triggered by tectonic or some underground movement of molten rock (an underground eruption of some kind).

    When end where these events happened are the main questions. Another main question is if they can happen again (or is Mars now a ‘dead planet’)?

  93. Kev-in-Uk says:

    thingadonta says:
    September 28, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Of course, but a hydrothermal fluid transport is still a ‘stream’, is it not? And likely, it would have to be dense fluid transport to allow the amount of rounding over such small distance and time frame too (unless the constituent pebbles are really soft!).
    My curiosity still centres around the matrix ‘cement’ and the eroding processes.
    many many questions to be answered to get a realistic analysis – and IMHO certainly NASA is overly biased to release the rather simplistic press release that it has!

  94. MartinH wrote, “Neither is there any doubt that crude oil is also present on the planet,” ??? OK, *not* a geologist here… but I’d always thought oil was based on old dead bodies and trees that lay around for a few million years and decomposed?

    :?
    MJM

  95. Chris Schoneveld says:

    G. Karst says:
    September 28, 2012 at 10:50 am

    “I’m pretty sure I see embedded bits of sea shells in the Earth gravel. Would not moist gravel on Earth contain thriving colonies of bacteria, amoebas, and other life forms. ”

    Conglomerates are normally not marine but terrestial sediments and for fossilisation one needs preferably anaerobic conditions and those conditions don’t exist in fast flowing streams that create pebbly conglomerates.

  96. @Gunga Din 8:07 pm.
    Thanks, Gunga. Yes, I did mean “liquid”, but leaving off tha word, even in context, was a blunder worth pointing out. l’ll be more careful in the future.
    It should have been “CO2 cannot exist as a liquid at any temperature if the pressure is below 5 atm.”

  97. Ben D says:

    D. Patterson says:

    “Planning and engineering studies for a real manned mission to Mars began with Wehrner Von Braun’s Mars Project at various stages in 1946, 1948, 1952, 1956, other intervening years, and 1969. The 1969 planning set a date in 1987 for the landing on Mars, but it too was cancelled like all preceding plans due to the lack of political support. Those of us lobbying Congress and the White House for funding in 1971 barely succeeded in securing funding for the development of the Space Shuttle (STS). We were unable to save the funding for the final Apollo Lunar missions, much less find any bipartisan support for a Martian flight programme.

    Later manned missions to Mars suffered similar fates with the lack of political will and support in Congress.”

    Yes, I was aware of Von Braun’s push for Mars, perhaps even the 1989 Integrated Space Plan was an evolved development,…and you are correct in noting that the political will has not been there to make action meet with space plan schedules to date. However time moves on and much of the essential technology to make it happen as laid out in the 1989 ISP are now extant or coming online in the near future. So it will happen with or without US/NASA leadership, as Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Indian, etc., space capabilities continue apace. That 1989 ISP is generic in the sense that many of the steps are essential prerequisite technical developments that need to be in place sequentially as the trasition from a terrestrial to a solar human species proceeds, so time really doesn’t matter in the longer term of planetary evolution, nor individual nations, everything will get done!

  98. richardscourtney says:

    Friends:

    I again write to thank all who have tried to give me an answer to my question as to whether the fluid may have been a flowing fluidised bed of particulates and not water. I especially appreciate the comments from John Marshall, Mike Bromley the Kurd, and Hector Pascal.

    I have learned from all of you. Thankyou.

    I found the comments of Hector Pascal especially helpful to me. In his post September 28, 2012 at 5:12 am at he says to me:

    There’s no definitive answer to you question.

    and he explains why. Later, at September 28, 2012 at 7:41 am, he expands on that and says

    One thing experience has taught me is that normally you can’t solve “the problem” from one exposure. As I mentioned above, I would like to see much more comprehensive sections in order to have any confidence in a given interpretation.

    Now that is a really scientific answer. Hector, I not only accept that, I applaud it.

    So, it seems that the NASA statements about indications from gross morphology of the pebble are probably somewhat exaggerated.

    However, the discussion in the thread has shown that the determination of the cementation processes of the conglomerate may provide a definitive indication of whether the conglomerate was – or was not – formed by exposure to liquid water. Not being a geologist, I am probably not aware of all the possible reasons for formation of the observed cement. Hence, I look forward to reading further discussions of that in the thread.

    Again, sincere thanks to you all. I have learned, and learning is why I enjoy frequenting WUWT.

    Richard

  99. Carsten Arnholm, Norway says:

    Martin Hovland: How truly fascinating! Many thanks for that link to the oil on Mars site. If true, it turns absolutely everything upside down. I have long suspected that “fossil fuels” is just yet another falsehood. We have known about Methane lakes on Titan for a while, and if there is oil on Mars…

  100. Curious says:

    Thanks for your explanation, andyd. That makes total sense.

  101. Ric Werme says:

    Carsten Arnholm, Norway says:
    September 29, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Martin Hovland: How truly fascinating! Many thanks for that link to the oil on Mars site. If true, it turns absolutely everything upside down. I have long suspected that “fossil fuels” is just yet another falsehood. We have known about Methane lakes on Titan for a while, and if there is oil on Mars…

    Gotta run… dog walk.

    Methane is one thing, oil is another. http://www.oilonmars.blogspot.no/ notes:

    At the end of the day, Dr Barry Katz, who chaired the research conference, made the following conclusion: “Yes, we conclude that there are abiotic hydrocarbons on Earth. However, they are not of commercial value.” For further facts over this theme, which also includes hydrocarbons on Titan, please visit the excellent site: living-petrol

    Abiotic oil is one of the hot buttons on WUWT, there are a couple decent discussions that kind of match the above quote – i.e. don’t expect to find commercially useful amounts. While that salt dome looks like an interesting place for a rover to check out, it may be more interesting for confirmation of processes on Earth rather than turning everything upside down.

  102. Resourceguy says:

    Could Mars have its own long-cycle form of ice ages and interglacial periods of outwash? This site is nowhere near the polar regions but interglacial epochs could have various outflow flow effects in different areas. A Mars glacial cycle might even be localized and not hemispheric.

  103. Gunga Din says:

    “Curiousity” landed in an impact crater, right? The impact would have pulverized a lot of material and moved it very quickly. Maybe even melted some of the rock. Might the streambed be the result of that impact along with wind erosion?
    Also, is the mountain a volcano? What would a pyroclastic flow be like on Mars?
    Again, just asking questions as they occur to me.

  104. Kev-in-Uk says:

    The binding cement or matrix is virtually impossible to assess from visual inspection of a photo! In simple sedimentology terms the matrix/cement can only come from a few possible sources:
    1) immersion/mixing of the pebbles in an already soft fine ‘ooze’ – kinda like a mud, this then dries and binds the pebbles together. Other processes, such as burial and hence overburden pressure and geothermal heat can be involved in the drying/compaction process.
    2) Passing of mineral rich waters (usually hot) though the pre-existing gravel and depositing minerals as the ‘cement’ – think of an old chemistry set where you used to make alum crystals from over saturated solution…..or perhaps you can think of Yellowstone park and the hydrothermal springs and the sulphur deposits they create?
    3) Grinding of material together, during transportation via water(or ice – e.g. glacial tills), creating finer material which ‘settles’ around the pebbles when it stops ‘flowing’ and remains after drying out.
    4) an evaporative process whereby as evaporation occurs near the surface of a deposit, the mineral salts are left behind – forming the matrix/cement – think of salt flats!….
    can’t think of any others at the minute – but it has been 30+ years!
    I’m sure other Geos will want to chime in!
    I’m ignoring any igneous possibilities, but 2) can be related to volcanic/igneous sources.

  105. Curious says:

    Any Electric Universe theorists on here? I am not a scientist but in that theory, electrical arcing could explain the “riverbed” like phenomenon on the surface I think.

  106. Ric Werme says:

    Gunga Din says:
    September 29, 2012 at 10:23 am

    “Curiousity” landed in an impact crater, right? The impact would have pulverized a lot of material and moved it very quickly. Maybe even melted some of the rock. Might the streambed be the result of that impact along with wind erosion?
    Also, is the mountain a volcano? What would a pyroclastic flow be like on Mars?
    Again, just asking questions as they occur to me.

    Instead of asking questions as they occur to me, you would do well to go learn something about the Curiousity mission directly. If you had done that, you would have learned that Gale Crater is a) large, b) is an impact crater and c) like many large craters has a mountain in the center from the rebound of the impact.

    Gale crater is not a volcanic crater.

    Please go to http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl and read everything there.

  107. fhsiv says:

    Interesting photos. I’m glad they are releasing this stuff for us to speculate about! Here’s my two cents

    My first impression was that the cemented material looks like a layer of caliche cemented gravel similar to what we find near the top of the capillary fringe in arid climate unconsolidated sedimentary deposits here on earth. This possible origin raises questions about the differences between the condition of the depositional environments on Earth and Mars. Differences include changes in the depth within the soil profile where evaporation of water occurs because of the lower atmospheric pressure and the lower relative humidity. Also the lack of water rain would preclude futher concentration of the water souble cementing materials into a narrow horizon.

    Saying a soil or rock is of sedimaentary origin does not necessarily imply aqeuous deposition. Other mechanisms include deposits originating from explosive volcanic or impact events, also aeolian deposits, and deposits that are the result of gravity driven mass movements, to name a few.

    The loose appearing gravel below appears to have the same provenance as the clasts in the cemented material. This could imply that a process similar to weathering here on earth occurs on Mars. However, weathering on earth is largely involves hydration and oxidation processes
    that cause changes to the overall rock and constituent minerals as the it attempts to achieve equilibrium with surface conditions. On Mars, the impact of differential thermal expansion and
    contraction would be greater because of the larger range of surface temperatures.

    The slightly zoomed out photo (previously linked) shows a little more of the surroundings. But, an even more zoomed out photo that shows the locality on an outcrop scale is needed to put the conditions in context.

    Just a couple thoughts to have some fun with!

  108. Steve Tabor says:

    Looks like the pictures were taken fifty feet apart. The one on the right could have been taken anywhere with a calcium groundwater. My best bet for the one on the left is the Moenkopi Formation in Southern Utah, or maybe the Carmel or Somerville.

  109. Galane says:

    One human with a shovel and a shaker screen could do more geological study in two hours than Curiosity will be able to do in its planned lifetime.

  110. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    richardscourtney says:

    September 28, 2012 at 6:52 am

    Kelvin Vaughan:

    Please explain your ridiculous comment at September 28, 2012 at 6:45 am which has no relationship of any kind to my post which you cite.

    Richard

    Richard
    My point is that it practical experience is far better than to sit in an office and theorise about that which you have no practical experience. How many times have you heard scientists say “we were amazed to find that” which is a feeble way of saying we were wrong but we are not going to admit it!.

    Kelvin

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