Light-toned Rocks First, 'Columbia Hills' Later

This image taken by the Mars Exploration Rover's panoramic camera on sol 91 (April 5, 2004) shows the rover's ultimate destination - the eastern-lying "Columbia Hills." The rover will head toward the hills in coming sols, while stopping to investigate rocks and soils along the way. Of particular interest is the light-toned coating seen here on the low-lying rocks. Scientists intend to find out if this coating is the same as that observed on the well-studied rock dubbed "Mazatzal." They believe Mazatzal's coating may have formed by cementation of airborne dust, perhaps in a slightly wetter, past environment. The scientists also plan to determine if the soil here is the same as the somewhat cohesive soil seen near the rover's lander. Like the coatings, this soil may have formed in past moist environments. This image was taken with the panoramic camera's infrared (750 nanometer) filter.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell