Curiosity rover puzzles over unusual Martian bedrock
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has found bedrock with surprisingly high levels of silica, something it has not before found in its three years on the red Planet's surface.
Silica, containing silicon and oxygen, is commonly found on Earth as quartz.
This area of the discovery lies on lower Mount Sharp.
"One never knows what to expect on Mars, but the ... target was interesting enough to go back and investigate," said Roger Wiens, the principal investigator of the ChemCam instrument, which detects chemical compositions in nearby terrain.
Before the silica discovery, Curiosity was studying an outcrop where a pale mudstone meets darker sandstone.
"We found an outcrop named Missoula where the two rock types came together, but it was quite small and close to the ground. We used the robotic arm to capture a dog's-eye view with the MAHLI (Mars Hand Lens Imager) camera, getting our nose right in there," said Ashwin Vasavada, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.