NASA’s Mars Rover May Have Solved A Mountain Mystery : NPR
Scientists have proof mountain Three miles tall, in the course of a crater on Mars, could also be made in large part from mud and sand.
To get the knowledge for that sudden conclusion, the researchers MacGyvered a navigation software at the NASA rover Curiosity, and grew to become it into a systematic software.
“It kind of frustrated me that we didn’t have a surface gravimeter on Mars,” says Lewis, a member of the Curiosity science workforce, and an assistant professor in earth and planetary sciences at Johns Hopkins University.
You can be told so much in regards to the geology of a planet by way of measuring refined adjustments in its gravity. High-density rocks give a more potent gravity-signal than low-density rocks.
But to make measurements of gravity, you in most cases wish to have an software known as a gravimeter.
One day, Lewis began fascinated with one thing that popped up often at the rover’s day-to-day task time table.
“Turns out, every day we don’t drive with the rover, there’s this little rover activity called the SAPP-RIMU data activity,” Lewis says.
SAPP stands for “surface attitude position and pointing.” The SAPP-RIMU knowledge task is one thing engineers use to resolve the rover’s actual orientation on this planet’s floor.
Inside the RIMU are 3 gadgets to measure acceleration — very similar to the accelerometers within a sensible telephone that measure the telephone’s actions.
Kevin Lewis had a type of epiphany.
“We don’t have a gravimeter on the surface of Mars, but we do have accelerometers,” he says, “and gravity is just an acceleration.”
You won’t bring to mind gravity that approach, however you’ll, and scientists do.
So with the assistance of engineers Stephen Peters and Kurt Gonter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he was once in a position to regulate the best way the knowledge from the RIMU have been treated; that gave Lewis his gravimeter.
He knew simply what he sought after to do with it: Try to determine how a 15,000-foot-tall mountain may shape in the course of Gale crater, the crater Curiosity landed in.
It’s a query many scientists have at a loss for words over.
“There have been basically two different schools of thought,” says Mackenzie Day, an assistant professor within the division of earth, planetary and house sciences at UCLA.
“Craters are fundamentally big holes in the ground,” Day says. “So they’re a really good place to accumulate things: to accumulate sediment; accumulate dust and sand.”
Among the questions scientists were puzzling over, Day says, is that this: Was Gale crater as soon as stuffed to the rim with sediment, after which maximum of that subject material eroded away, leaving at the back of what’s now known as Mount Sharp?
“Or,” Day says, “is Mount Sharp something that developed in the middle of the crater — as a sort of stacking of material in the crater center — from winds coming down the sides of the crater rim?”
Could blowing sand and dirt underneath in point of fact construct a Three-mile-tall mountain?
Possibly, despite the fact that Kevin Lewis admits it runs towards our expectancies.
“We don’t usually see mountains growing up as a haystack on the Earth,” Lewis says.
If the haystack type is true, the rocks on the base of Mount Sharp would not be very dense.
“What we found in this study is the rocks are surprisingly low density,” Lewis says.
So the haystack concept could also be proper, as he and his colleagues document within the magazine Science.
Lewis says he plans to stay accumulating knowledge from his MacGyvered software to peer if the preliminary effects cling up.