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Gravity measurements surprise Mars researchers

1 Feb 2019, 15:53 UTC
Gravity measurements surprise Mars researchers
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The Mars Curiosity Rover on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Using the accelerometers and gyroscopes on board the Curiosity Mars rover, researchers have measured subtle changes in the tug of martian gravity as the robot has climbed the lower slopes of Mount Sharp, showing the underlying rocks making up the 5.5-kilometre-tall (18,000 foot) mound of layered terrain are much more porous than initially thought.
Mount Sharp is the central feature of Gale Crater, Curiosity’s landing site, a towering mound rising 5.5 kilometres (18,000 feet) above the crater floor. The new findings raise fresh questions about how the mound was formed, indicating the crater may not have been completely filled in the past as previously thought.
“This study represents the first gravity traverse and measurement of rock density on Mars,” Nicholas Schmerr, a geologist at the University of Maryland, said in a release describing the measurements. “The low density of rocks in Gale Crater suggests that they did not undergo deep burial.
“This could mean that Mount Sharp was not excavated by erosion, but rather was constructed by wind deposition and other processes. Either way, it seems that Mars has had the capability to lay down significant amounts ...

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