Exploration of Gale Crater

As this is the unofficial traverse record of MSL on the blog, I'll add this early suggestion of a detour path for Curiosity/MSL following a liquid or semi-liquid channel of flow to the East, a path not discussed to my knowledge as yet.

The flow is not easy to visualize, is shaped as a funnel from the north and south of curiosity, narrowing towards the sections of the flow channel still apparent leading to the depression pits almost directly East.
As the materials recorded in the channel may not be water related, and as the amount of water liquid may have eroded the terrain here only slightly at any historical term, the travel may not show a clear record other than the original flow forming chemistry. With the ' r lewis ' topic advancing the cause for liquids on Mars, can we assume the erosion was water related as a probability?
Perhaps a combined history of two causes for deposited channel layers and erosion?

Wind not considered here to clear the air of the routine confusion about features which do not follow the wind.

Can the estimate of some semi-liquid or liquid be seen in the very shallow channel just above the reduced size inset at the bottom center of this ESP_028335_1755_IRB_NOMAP
The image must be downloaded and viewed full size to see the detailed flow features in this altered version. It can just barely be seen in the original.


Should this nearby traverse be skipped in a search for water both recent and ancient?

Is it time face the East and ask the important questions in life?

Updating the traverse of Curiosity, which has now made the first travel across the approach to Mount Sharp, we seem to have left behind all the available samples of interesting rocks imaged by contributors on the blog, and NASA JPL has decided to sample only a angular breccia medium sized rock named Coronado.
The results show a typical non differentiated lava mix of chemistry similar to a standard Mars basalt type. The plan and direction is the approach first East and South, towards a point named Glenelg, then pass to the west in a reversal of travel possibly along a line which allow Curiosity/MSL to cross the depression channel extending from Mount Sharp slope towards the landing site spot. The channel is one of many remnant shapes of residual eroded material with matched directionality in crystalline control of material strengths, in a pattern of near right angle weaknesses. That matches a basalt type crystalline controlled mineralogy of a possibly high Iron or classic basalt chemical late stage cooling material, so, possibly they are seeking an explanation for the deep faulting depression we see in the images as predominant, with the perpendicular flow layer remnants. As the material is common, and not unusual or unexpected, I am surprised that concentration is on a typical mineralogy of a non-water related and a non-altered material.
It appears the plan is to stay on a 'safe' path in results, and to confirm the expected chemistry of standard satellite confirmed viewing.
We may not receive any testing of possible high silica and less viscous materials, such as those I and we displayed here in this topic and others, and to not confirm the symmetric 'shell' suggesting shapes with either imaging nor chemical testing.
Interesting safe start to a two year or longer traverse up the slopes of a massive series of layered materials.
Does anyone want to take a bet on the massive burial versus the sequential historical layering sedimentation of the 3.2 mile high sequence of layers?

Also, my entry of # 39, with the chemcam possible droplets I showed is matched by a combined test standard image assembly as a fixed presence on the test image. The items are not of consequence, and are not liquid released apparently.

One aspect of the initial travel is that any liquid which would be recorded on the current surface will have flowed also along the depression channel which is a crystalline controlled patterned feature(presumed from the samples of lava tube secondary material I have seen in the past, which often gives spheroids in the residual mix) lower in elevation along the 'graben' appearance channel shape. Despite debris infill, we may see matching flows this direction, to distinguish whether water flowed over the current eroded surface in recent geological history.
The plans may be to avoid local water altered rocks, with a uphill climb of the mountain slope as a primary goal.
Possibly they are confirming the presumptions about basic materials, but to not use the laser for site orientation of unusual rocks seems odd.

The angular rock with crusted attached 'soil' layer local material was also apparently not checked with the laser for water alteration influence in consolidation and incrustation/alteration processes.

A link to the rock tested by laser plasma spectral analysis technique. Media reports this as an initial use of the laser, with a few additional tests on the 'Sky Crane' rocket blast soil/rock exposure area. Is anyone aware of the detailed chemistry reported for the additional laser tests?

Does anyone believe my assessment of the local geology and channels is not accurate?

Here are the ChemCam targets of the "blast area":

Fortunatly they didnt pass up the opportunity to scan this exhumed area and the resulting rubble! I too really looking forward to the resulting spectra although they missed to shoot at certain points of special interest. Target 6 is a near miss because the markings at the upper right edge of that platy rock or the light toned weird looking rock just below would have been the most interesting part (see linked image in re8 http://www.marsroverblog.com/discuss-212286-curiositywhat-i-expect-you-to-find.html ). :-)

No reponses as yet, so,
To add some additional 'speculation' observations about Gale crater and the region, the Dichotomy Zone and the obvious deeper geomorphology of the parallel angled diagonals of volcanic processes which have been observed as dominant in satellite imaging for tens of years,...

The two primary angles of the channels approximately match very large diameter arcs which can be seen as faint records in regional and Gale surface solids. Both apparent fronts of possible flood layers or recorded movement and offsets in compression stresses, applied upon solids and possibly liquifacted materials are now seen as partial arc shapes which are shallow.
Those two arc directions, for whatever the causes, are from the near perpendicular directions nearly angled to match the channels which are at near right angles in the Mount Sharp(Aeolis Mons) base margin area where Curiosity/MSL is operating.
One is from North and West, The other is from the East and North. I do not have an easy to display assembled set of satellite images for confirmation, but we can see the two angles as directing us towards the two primary linear complexes of massive volcanic peaks which are a primary satellite set of paired and nearly parallel features even in telescopic images.
To match the mineral crystalline strengths and weaknesses of basalt to the directional arcs of massive regional or planet-wide motion records of compression or stresses from whatever causes give a scaling of influence in directional orientation of large and local features, and seems an inevitable portion of the writing of The Natural History of Mars eventually.
If this rover can find crystalline and mineral support for the presumption that both the channels and the arcs are a system of influence or effect, giving allowance for the channels to be either mineral or stress induced, with possible fortuitous crystalline cause or effect of the assembly within the two causation systems, mineral/crystal or force/liquefaction/stress affected, we may find that the channels are either a product of induced crystalline orientation, or the arcs and the linear volcanic assembly is a product of massive mineral influence.
As some Earth spreading plates have diagonal linear oriented axis endpoints beyond the margins, we have an interesting corollary possibly to Earth morphology and physics in matching or related display.

Perhaps some alternative explanations are in the minds of the geology professionals here on the blog?

Basalt and Iron chemistry, cataclysm stresses from fixed angles, or happenstance angled flood basalts with later induced jointing type mineral weaknesses that match the major geology features? Particle physics?

How much of Mars is not automated but happinstance and chaos?

What portion of Mars is submissive to the same gravity structure as the Earth is refined and ordered by, and does the structure of even these channels and possibly the basalt crystallinity match the arcs as a by-product? The crystalline assembly of a basalt tube residue gives a near perfect match for both scales of viewed items. Why?
Any educated or casual estimations?

I agree with you, MPJ, I believe we are missing a chance to piece together an early assessment of the crater region by small sampling of nearby unusual rocks. Then again, we have this new motorized vehicle for a traverse of tens of miles, and will find many of the local samples in place along the travel.
If the entire sequence has been heated, from the bottom of the deepest channel with rafted solids on a flat subsurface, to the mass of layered basalt, we may have a story of limited historical timing.?
Unusual opportunities are still available to the rover later, if they second guess the plan.

Here is an example of one of the interesting rocks left behind. Notice the apparent cone shape, possible grooves or ridges and jagged edges. There is a discussion about this in the mars open forum.

Pleased with your image, and it shows the limits of the current rover technology to date in the mission, for traverse imaging. Even on sol 19 and later, we are seeing very limited quality in the imaging as yet. A closer crisp view is definitely necessary.
I see these views may be the only record we have for future generations.
The initial image Fred presented for this topic gives a view of the subsidence pits which are merged to a large depression area of irregular outline. It appears the channel I suggested following to the east has a shallow downward arcing bottom, deepest at the middle. Is that what others are seeing?
These rocks were in the channel and would have been affected by any deep liquid temporary flows, but it requires a very long time for a visual change in materials when immersed in water which is shallow and periodic. Waiting for the chemistry of the blasted small pits to see chemistry of the encrusting of some rocks. Normally either heat and semi-liquid phase, or, suspended solution and migrating wet material on Earth cause most of the encrusting of rocks with softer particulate soil type materials.
Are we seeing flows in a water influenced state this high in elevation at the eroded surface where the unusual rocks are found?
Is there slightly lighter tonality to the embedding and encrusting adhered material tested?
In a change of orientation, from the East-South landing orientation, looking to the lower pit terrain area, the turn to the South, gives a view of the right side or West margins of a slight slope which appears in satellite imaging to be a continuation of the deep channel leading to Mount Sharp. It appears we are looking at a buried channel, moderated by a fill where the rover has a close view. No appearance here of a continuous steeper channel looking forward south here, but possible a downward arc in the channel bottom, or, a former flow subsidence or evacuation process has given a shallow margin on the right side of this sol 16 image from Curiosity.
Link to the 'raw image' page for this, and at the bottom left, links to the daily 'sol 16' images, with a bottom link to the full instrument camera listings.


What has been achieved by sol 20 now?
Are we traveling south as yet, and how much time will it take to traverse to 'Glenelg' at the south endpoint of the updated plan?

Did any-one else find the Calcium spectra results in the first released tests to be rather dominating in the graph? Ease of instruments reading the emissions of that chemistry possibly, as the warning statement explains the peaks are not indicative of the amounts of the elements in the samples.

"The heights of the peaks do not directly indicate the relative abundances of the elements in the rock, as some emission lines are more easily excited than others."

I guess as a start, one way to make interpreting easier for those of us with no knowledge in this field perhaps would be for the scientists to adjust the data and plot as some sort of Relative Intensity to Wavelength.

Yes, Chris, I was expecting a person with experience may happen along to give us a better grounding in the three frequency range Mars combined spectra charts, but that may take some time to find someone with patience and knowledge of this new machinery.
Carbon and other chemistry is recorded as very small peaks in the sequence.
Eventual research reports may give most of the answers. Reliable mineral reports would be important.

Another related subject. I was commenting on the 'Seismology Mission' topic by Bill Harris,
and I was discussing the Gale position along the Dichotomy Zone, showing some anigifs supporting the idea that the Mars gravity field structure matches the Earth's similar field structure. The follow-along is that Earth has major plate tectonics and other type mag. 5 plus earthquakes at the differentials where the high/low extreme stresses occur. The anigifs show that the equatorial zones on both planets are zones where the high/low extensions are mismatched, and that corresponds to major geologic features that are recorded in landforms, such as the Dichotomy Zone, and the geology of Gale crater as a possible conditioned product of the influences.
Are we looking at closeups of gravity influence, tectonics hidden, or related geology?

A view of Gale crater gravity characteristics from recent research.


If you look at the first link graphic images, it is best to download the images as the initiation of an anigif can be delayed by a minute or two. Only the largest anigifs after two or three mouse-clicks will work as animated.

I am wondering if the laser has a limited number of uses that are constraining the use on these valuable rock shapes?
I admit, I have seen spalling impact produced shapes somewhat similar the the one you show here, but a close micro imager(MAHLI) view would at least be evidence if not a laser assessment.

Is the drive proceeding south after sol 20?

"On average, the ChemCam team expects to take approximately one dozen compositional measurements of rocks per day." According to the ChemCam Team.


Just to be half silly...this photo is practically a seafood salad.


Taken from the Anderson.pdf posted by Kye Goodwin under topic Curious about Curosity (page 20,on the forum,,,I think)
This is from page 11 of the very interesting
pdf dated 2010,,but before Gale had been officially chosen,,,this pdf is fascinating,,,it post a huge amount of data (53 pages),,with charts maps,everything available at that date from all of the satellites able to observe,plus reputable
(sourced&proven)conclusions.I put only a slice of it here referring to the dark dune field,,,what I have noticed,but have seen no comment on is the severe lack of small to medium (or any size)meteorite craters.
Not saying there are none here,,,it only seems to me that there is a lower,
per square kilometer,crater field.
Start Paste
Dark-toned aeolian material occurs on the crater floor and exhibits a variety of forms, including isolated barchan and dome dunes We used empirical equations by ). The southern floor and rim have a lower albedo than the northern floor and rim and most of the mound. This corresponds to an increase in the low- and high-Ca pyroxene parameters in OMEGA maps (Figure 5). We interpret this as a region that is less mantled by ferric dust, exposing more mafic underlying material. The high-Ca pyroxene signal is highest within the crater but the low-Ca pyroxene signal extends south of the rim and correlates with the dark-toned wind streak in that area.
Garvin et al. (2003) to estimate Gale Crater's pristine depth and rim height. Garvin et al. (2003) do not list a depth to diameter equation for craters larger than 100 km, so we applied their equation for complex craters ( d=0.36D0.49; 7 km 100 km ( h=0.12D0.35) to calculate an initial rim height of 0.7 km. Therefore, by adding the pristine depth and rim height, we calculate an original floor-to-rim elevation difference of approximately 5 km. The actual maximum floor-to-rim difference for Gale is 6.1 km, implying that if the limit imposed by the equation is correct, a substantial amount of additional erosion has occurred in the northern crater, removing any crater-filling material and possibly portions of the original crater floor. We should, however, note that the 6.1 km value is,,,,
End Paste,,,,,you will have to read the rest yourself if interested in where we are,what is ahead of us,and the possibilities of what we may find,with such an awesome bunch of cameras.I believe that the cameras are the story,,,NOT,,,the 'search for life'.
Also I would be interested if anyone (dana?)
has seen a projected (or two) route map?

I only see the original somewhat symmetric item, and, above your 'tooth' item upper right, just above that text, is a four blob repeat in a sequence. A couple items for me. We need to all get to a construction or stone mason's supply outdoors stockpile of rocks. They can be varied in shapes, and are different from every angle of view.
It is important to be able to rapidly guess the rock types when walking a desert scene. The heat and blinding sun make the work damaging to the body within a few hours, like frying a steak on a grill. No bad guesses are allowed, as the stones are painful to touch.

They have an anaglyph of the peak area of Mount Sharp. This shows a rather unusual assembly of bright curved shapes of a thin dike or injection linear form in the far right image enlargement of 2X.

The index page for PSP_008002_1750

The center object is less bright, and appears somewhat like a large meteorite or other round, ovoid object hanging on the layered slope.
The image sequence are reduced in size scale with the far left image as a near full frame HiRISE anaglyph image from a JP2.
The object is embedded on the very top of Mount Sharp, on a slope which appears remarkably clean of debris.
The small white arrow shows the 'dike' shape section angle, the two larger arrows show additional resistant to erosion linear matching portions of whatever the tougher material is.
This makes much more sense with 3D red/blue eyeglasses to view the mountain scene.
In the third image from the left are sequence repeats of thinner layers between thicker layers of a few count each between the thin layer sequence.
If this was a climate lain sediment would these be of the same thickness and fairly matched in regular draping of the non-lumpy top surface each period of deposition?
I am not convinced this is air-fall or volcanic lain ash/glass.
Does the far left slump section image show the two top to bottom parallel fracture or stress faults as appears to exist?
I imagine the details of structure failure indicated matches what a sediment assembly would show, but it seems far too regular in deposition to be realistic from Earth based experience.
To see the image full size you must download it, from the image host site. The full image is about 3100 pixels wide and 600 high. Details are seen only at full size.



I come across the term,,''Ridges interpreted to be inverted channels'',,quite ofton,,,,,,,,could
someone give me the meaning of 'interpreted'?,
use in this fashion?What I am really asking is
how do they ''know'' that ridges,even eskers,
are dry creek beds,or channels?I mean, cant they just be cracks in the (on the) surface?
Caused by,for example in my case in my part of
Texas (and I have seen very large long ones in parts of WSMR in New Mehico).Caused by nothing more than shifting of clay on the surface.

My entry # 52 was for Chris at #50. I'll read the links and try to catch up with the content you have brought here, JHD.

Honestly, I have no experience with 'ridges'. See them on Mars at times, and I also see here at Gale and other areas sections of solid features 'rafted' in motion relative to the many other pieces of mobile elevated objects which appear like a lava surface with residual material supported on a smooth, mobile, fluid layer.
I see it(rafting) at the lows in Gale, and suspected the entire sequence is a massive build-up in place. I am probably wrong, but the sequences are so lackful of large debris and irregularities other than stress fractures with tough fill.
Usually a ridge indicates compression as I understand it, from one direction or another.

Another question,,,
How is the term,''elevation''
derived on Mars?

On Earth it would be,at,above
or below sea level,since Mars
has no sea...in the case of Gale
it seems the,,High Thermal Inertia
Landing Site Fan is defined as,
elevation min -4520,,max -4440,
(that is a minus sighn before those numbers)

The actual maximum floor-to-rim difference for Gale is 6.1 km,(presumably from the Viking era MOLA,,Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter?)So then is the elevation found as being a relationship of from highest point
to lowest point figure? If so,then if we move around the planet to Olympic Mons,,what then becomes the number used to define elevation?

Is there a zero elevation?
If so,,where is it located and defined,
on Earth it would be 'At Sea Level'
But on Mars?

Any explanation at all will help as I
don't have ANY idea.
Thank you ahead of time.

Section 3.1 on this Wikipedia article helps. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Mars

The listing of 'Mount Sharp' or Aeolis Mons, the central peak Curiosity is scheduled to climb has a listing in this second article of positive 5,500 meters. Will this new mission give any change in the technique of establishing a firm figure for a standard?
Lists of mountains in height.


The article on Mars mountain heights gives this explanation, which answers your concern fairly well.
"This is a list of mountains on Mars by mean surface level. The listed elevations are relative to the Martian datum (the elevation defined as zero by average martian atmospheric pressure and planet radius). Elevation is not the height above the surrounding terrain. "

To give you a slightly differing and separate answer, this article explains the figure used as the 'Mars aeroid'.
"To create the Mars topographic map, data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter as used to calculate the radius of Mars at millions of observation points across surface of the planet. Martian elevation values were obtained by subtracting the radius of the Mars areoid from the radius of Mars at each observation point. The resulting elevations were used to produce the topographic map."

As this is a multi-parted answer as yet, we need a geology person on the blog for a better response.
Pressure or aeroid(radius)?


A smaller view of the unusual large object and linear bright altered or injected parallel stronger formation material aside the rounded boulder shape at the peaks of Mount Sharp.
The view closeup is 2 to 1 I believe, and about 1 to 4 for the larger scale view of the layer sequences.

As the peaks of Mount Sharp is laced with these fractures which are parallel does this give favor to sediment deposition rather than a massive emplacement of hot material near the peak? The closeup surface textural pattern gives an impression of solid volcanic material in my opinion. Any experienced correction or preference offered here?

This image closeup assembly may give a better view of the oriented fracture or jointing type active processes in the upper elevation layers of Mount Sharp(Aeolis Mons).
The closeups are at about 2 to 1 size, and the location on the image is selected right at the HiRISE index page selected view.
The additional image number for the anaglyph combined view is PSP_009927_1750.
Lat -4.9 Lon 137.7 resolution 29cm/pixel
The resolution is for the IR original JP2

This view may be self explanatory for the features as oriented throughout the mass of layers seen even in the top of the 3.2 mile high mountain at the central area of Gale crater.
The rover is unlikely to achieve these heights during the ascent. It would be important to timing, however, to find sampling of these brighter materials all through the layer stack of the mountain to determine the active periods of alteration and heat production in the Gale geology.

Are the Gale channels all the same occurrence at the same timing?

This image must also be downloaded to view the full image size.

Well,Dana,You certainly cleared up my confusion about how elevation on Mars is derived,totally satisfied with the answer.


Ridges as inverted channels,,,I'll take their word for it.

Are you suggesting that Mt Sharp might have been an active volcano in its past?

I haven't came across that yet.
The Anderson.pdf is chock full of info and although I am a very fast reader,,,this pdf
takes an immense amount of concentration to absorb.I am roughly half way thru the 53 pages.Certain parts of it must be printed out as there are constant references to the charts,fascinating detailed information.

Although I plainly see the squarish object
lodged in the crack (ravine?),,,I cant imagine Curie reaching it,possibly the
MastCam can image it.

SIGH,,,,so much to be seen and found out,ahead of us,,and I feel that getting
as much education on Gale as possible,beforehand,,is VERY important.
Thank you very much Dana.