Oppy is getting ready to start studying the exposed slabs of bright bedrock christened Luis de Torres. Today some raw images hit the Exploratorium website that allowed me, finally, to make a proper colour portrait of the feature…
I must admit I’m really pleased with that; I think I’ve got the colour balance just about right.
Luis de Torres is certainly fascinating to look at, but why is it so important scientifically? I asked Steve Squyres…
These “hydrated sulfate” minerals at Yuma, spotted by CRISM and now in Oppy’s sights.. they’re minerals that were affected and changed by exposure to water (acidic or salty) in Mars’ ancient past, as I understand it.
So they’re important because they will tell us just how wet and how much more hospitable this part of Mars was in the deep past?
Yeah. Keep in mind, though, that we don’t really think there’s anything dramatically special about this place. We’ve been driving around on sulfate-rich rocks for seven years, and it’s very likely that all of the sulfates we’ve seen at Meridiani have been hydrated to some degree. So the thing that’s different about this place is probably not the composition of the rocks, at least in any dramatic way. The thing that’s different is that for some reason at this place it’s actually possible to see the signature of hydrated sulfates from orbit. That hasn’t been the case anywhere else, and we’d like to try to understand why. It’s part of the business of learning how to use assets on the surface to provide “ground truth” for orbital data.
And just to clarify, is Oppy looking for ‘chunks’ of rock standing on the surface, or is it the slabs and plates of exposed ‘bedrock’ we can already see “beneath her wheels” that she’s going to be studying?
The slabs. One of the things we can see from orbit is that the signature of hydrated sulfates seems to correlate with the presence of bright bedrock. So we chose Luis de Torres as the place to spend superior conjunction because it was a nice exposed slab of bright bedrock, right in the middle of the orbital hydrated sulfate signature.
Finally for this post, here’s a truly beautiful portrait of Santa Maria, courtesy of UMSF’s “vikingmars”, aka Olivier de Goursac. I could wax lyrical about the beautiful lighting, the lovely composition, the dramatic view, but I don’t need to; just look at the image and you’ll see all that for yourself…