Curiosity has found some really weird, twisty rock towers on Mars

The Curiosity rover has found an exceptional rock formation piercing the extraterrestrial landscape of Mars. Among the shallow sands and boulders of Gale Crater rise several winding rock towers – the spikes of sediment almost look like frozen jets of water poured from an unseen jug into the sky.

In fact, experts say the columns were probably created from cement-like substances that once filled in ancient bedrock fissures. As the softer rock eroded, the meandering streams of compact material remained standing.

Rock formations found on Mars. (NASA, JPL-Caltech, MSSS)

The rock formations were captured by a camera aboard the Curiosity rover on May 17, but the image was only shared last week by NASA and experts from the SETI (which stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) institute. , as part of the SETI planetary picture. initiative of the day.

Strange as the structures may seem, they are not without precedent.

In terrestrial geology, a “hoodoo” is a tall, thin spire of rock formed by erosion. It can also be called tent rock, fairy chimney or earthen pyramid.

Hoodoos are typically found in dry environments, such as the canyons of Utah or southern Serbia, and the columns can sometimes reach the height of ten-story buildings.

14713013206 007014b002cA hoodoo in Bryce Canyon, Utah. (Don Graham/Flickr/CC BY SA 2.0)

Natural structures are formed by layers of hard rocks that accumulate in softer sedimentary rocks. As the rest of the rock erodes due to rain, wind or frost, you are left with a beautiful mold of an ancient fracture in the bedrock.

1600px Hoodoos at Sunset East Coulee Alberta CanadaHoodoos East Coulee, Alberta, Canada. (Darren Kirby/CC BY SA 2.0)

The two towers of rock on Mars appear on the verge of collapse compared to those we see on Earth, but they are clearly strong enough to withstand the lighter surface gravity encountered on the Red Planet.

Another strange rock formation discovered by Curiosity earlier this year could have been created in the same way, but with very different results.

This other smaller rock looks a bit like a piece of coral or a flower with many small petals stretching out towards the sun.

“One theory that has emerged is that the rock is a type of concretion created by minerals deposited by water into cracks or splits in existing rock,” a NASA press release explained at the time.

“These concretions may be compacted together, may be harder and denser than the surrounding rock, and may remain even after the surrounding rock has eroded.”

FlowerRock Curiosity 960A flower-shaped rock found on Mars. (NASA, JPL-Caltech, MSSS)

Gale Crater isn’t entirely flat, but the alien spiers discovered by Curiosity stand out against the rest of their surroundings, though no height measurements accompany the image.

The towering rock tombstones may seem lifeless now, but their formation speaks volumes about ancient conditions on Mars and whether life could have thrived there billions of years ago.

Gale Crater itself is thought to be a dry lake bed, although possibly shallower and more transient than experts once assumed.

The rock formations in and around the ancient lake help reveal the true history of the area.

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