Curiosity: Contact at Missoula

PIA19829_ipSol 1051, July 22, 2015. Released as part of the news about Curiosity’s instruments finding silica-rich rocks is this mosaic of MAHLI images of the Missoula outcrop. Pale mudstone (bottom of outcrop) meets coarser sandstone (top) in this geological contact zone, which has piqued the interest of Mars scientists.

White mineral veins that fill fractures in the lower rock unit abruptly end when they meet the upper rock unit. Such clues help scientists understand the possible timing of geological events. First, the fine sediment that now forms the lower unit would have hardened into rock. It then would have fractured, and groundwater would have deposited calcium sulfate minerals into the fractures. Next, the coarser sediment that forms the upper unit would have been deposited.

The area pictured is about 16 inches (40 centimeters) across. (Click the image to load a larger version into a new browser tab.)

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