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Curiosity in the valley of Gediz Vallis

Curiosity's view on sol 3576 (August 28, 2022)
Click for full image.

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

The panorama above was created by Curiosity’s right navigation camera on August 28, 2022, and shows the strangely paved Martian terrain directly in front of the rover now that it is inside the valley of Gediz Vallis, scattered flat rocks interspersed with dust. The yellow lines in the overview map to the right indicates the area covered by this panorama. The red dotted line indicates the rover’s likely future route to circle around the small mesa Chenapua.

The paved rocks however may not be separate, but merely covered in their low spots by dust. What makes these light rocks significant is that they appear to be the first close examples of the sulfate-bearing layer that the rover has seen in the higher reaches of Mount Sharp since it landed in Gale Crater more than ten years ago. You can see this bright layer clearly in the distance in a panorama taken by Curiosity in June 2021. The rover has now finally reached it, and is about to delve into another layer in the geological history of Mars, a layer that appears easily weathered and carved by the thin Martian atmosphere.

Other details in this panorama are of important note. In the overview map, I have indicated that a recurring slope lineae is supposed to exist on the cliff face of the mesa dubbed Orinoco. These lineae, seen from orbit, appear to be streaks on slopes that come and go seasonally. No one has come up with a theory to explain them, though the most favored theory today says they are staining dust flows of some kind.

However, if you click on the panorama and zoom in on the cliff face of Orinoco, you will see an incredibly rough rocky terrain. It seems impossible for any streak of any kind to flow down this cliff anywhere, suggesting that the streaks might possibly be like the rays that radiate out from craters on the Moon, visible only from orbit and invisible on the surface.

The marker layer is another important geological target, now almost within reach. This flat layer is found in many places on the flanks of Mount Sharp, all at about the same approximate elevation. It is distinctly flat and relatively smooth. Knowing why it stands out so differently from the layers above and below will help geologists better write the geological history of this Martian mountain and the crater in which it sits.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • GaryMike

    Astronomy has always been my thing. It defines me.

    I took to geology over a very long period of time. It required many field trips and quite a few really good teachers for me to “get it”..

    Rocks can’t talk, but they can speak to those able to listen.

    I’m not much of a philosopher, but to me that top picture is saying “Home”.

  • Jeff

    Dr. Abigail Fraeman’s tweet has (unofficially?) nicknamed this as “Marker Band Valley”.

    GaryMike – understand your sentiment, but hope it doesn’t become “home” for the rover, more of a rest stop or a way point on this exciting mission. 8^)

  • GaryMike

    I don’t know. Maybe teleport me there to be with the rover and maybe I can apply sentiment to convince it to stay home.

    Rover, my love, you’re now one of “us”. We belong here. It’s who we are, for the moment…um, forever.

    Home is where “us” are.

  • GaryMike

    Off topic:

    From Jeff’s twitter link above.

    Holy …. (insert your preferred explicative here).

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