Click for full image.
Cool image time! The image to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on July 16, 2021 by the Mars rover Curiosity, using its high resolution mast camera.
There isn’t much to say. These are alien rocks, created in a place with a gravity only about a third that of Earth’s in a climate that is very different. Their delicate nature suggests we are looking at something that was once more substantial and has since been undergoing erosion.
Nor has it been that unusual to find rocks so dainty on Mars. In fact, the more Curiosity has climbed, the more such things have been visible. And similar things were seen by the rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
How such rocks formed initially in the far past, under what climate conditions, remains the number one mystery on Mars. What is now causing it to flake away into such a finespun gossamer of complexity is as much a mystery, tied more to the climate and geology of Mars today.
This rock sits on the bottom flank of Mt Sharp in Gale Crater, at the highest elevation Curiosity has yet climbed. At this point the rover has just entered a new geological unit, what scientists have dubbed the sulfate unit. The evidence gathered from a distance (that so far appears confirmed by recent observations) suggest that this unit was formed under a fluctuating environment that laid down many layers of sediment as conditions ebbed and flowed.
I must unfortunately ask you for your financial support because I do not depend on ads and rely entirely on the generosity of readers to keep Behind the Black running. You can either make a one time donation for whatever amount you wish, or you sign up for a monthly subscription ranging from $2 to $15 through Paypal or $3 to $50 through Patreon.
Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
Your support is even more essential to me because I not only keep this site free from advertisements, I do not use the corrupt social media companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to promote my work. I depend wholly on the direct support of my readers.
You can provide that support to Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:
If Patreon or Paypal don't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
Cortaro, AZ 85652
Or you can donate by using Zelle through your bank. You will need to give my name and email address (found at the bottom of the "About" page). The best part of this electronic option is that no fees will be deducted! What you donate will be what I receive.