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Talking Points Memo — New images from Mars reveal numerous distinct, different-colored layers forming the mountain — called “strata” — each thought to correspond to a different era in Martian history, each with its own geologic makeup. Scientists compared the exposed layers to those found on Earth in the Grand Canyon.
The exposed layers on Mount Sharp could help scientists figure out whether Mars ever possessed the conditions necessary to support carbon-based life, which is exactly why scientists have chosen this particular peak to study up close when they drive the six-wheeled rover toward and up it over the course of the next year (at the relatively quick rate of about 360 feet per day).
Mount Sharp, also known as Aeolis Mons, was named after NASA scientist and Caltech geologist Robert P. Sharp, who died in 2004.NASA Mars Science Laboratory — This image taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover highlights the interesting geology of Mount Sharp, a mountain inside Gale Crater, where the rover landed.
NASA Mars Science Laboratory — Before NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars, the strata exposed in Mount Sharp were compared to those in the Grand Canyon of the western United States, shown here. Now that the rover has arrived, scientists are surprised by just how close the similarities between the two terrains are. The lower reaches of Mount Sharp form a succession of strata as thick as those exposed in the Grand Canyon, and with a diversity of colors to match, complete with buttes and mesas. The major difference is that the strata of the Grand Canyon are exposed along a great valley, whereas the strata of Mount Sharp are exposed along the flanks of a great mountain.
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