The fascinating images were beamed back after the vehicle’s second drive around the surface. They detail a mound of layered rock where scientists plan to focus their search for signs of microbial life.
Distinct tiers can be seen near the base of the three-mile-high Mount Sharp mountain which rises from the Gale Crater. Project scientist John Grotzinger hailed the images as “spectacular” when they were released yesterday.
He said, “We can sense that there is a big change on Mount Sharp. The higher layers are steeply slanted relative to the layers of underlying rock, the reverse of similar features found in Earth’s Grand Canyon.
The layers are tilted in the Grand Canyon due to plate tectonics, so it’s typical to see older layers be more deformed and more rotated than the ones above them.”
And he added: “This thing just kind of jumped out at us as being something very different from what we ever expected.” Curiosity successfully landed on the Red Planet on August 6 and will stay for the next two years to gather data.