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The Curiosity science team today released an update on their results from the rover’s year-plus exploration of Vera Rubin Ridge, even as the rover has descended off the ridge into the lower clay-bearing area between the ridge and Mount Sharp.
Even though the rover has left the ridge, Curiosity’s team is still piecing together the story of its formation. While there have been a number of clues so far, none fully explains why the ridge has resisted erosion compared with the bedrock around it. But the rover’s investigation did find that the rocks of the ridge formed as sediment settled in an ancient lake, similar to rock layers below the ridge.
,,,A NASA orbiter studying the ridge had previously identified a strong signal from hematite, an iron-rich mineral that often forms in water. Curiosity confirmed the presence of hematite, along with other signs of ancient water, like crystals. These signs appeared in patches, leading the team to suspect that over time groundwater affected certain parts of the ridge differently than others. Another discovery was that the hematite signatures Curiosity mapped didn’t always match the view from space.
The link also includes a neat 360 degree video that allows you to scan around the rover, as it sat on Vera Rubin Ridge.
The journey into the clay unit below the ridge has been most interesting. I plan to post a rover update with some details next week.