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NASA Curiosity Rover Spots Strange Flower-Like Structure on Mars

The robotic systems and spacecraft orbiting Mars often send back images of our red, cold neighbor. But sometimes, they manage to capture incredible things that seem to belong on Earth rather than on an alien planet. Recently, NASA's Curiosity rover has spotted a flower-like structure sitting atop the Martian ground.
NASA Curiosity rover spots tiny flower-like structure on Mars 6 photos
NASA Curiosity rover spots tiny flower-like structure on MarsNASA Curiosity rover spots tiny flower-like structure on MarsNASA Curiosity rover spots tiny flower-like structure on MarsNASA Curiosity rover spots tiny flower-like structure on MarsNASA Curiosity rover spots tiny flower-like structure on Mars
The rover has spent nine years on Mars searching for signs of ancient microbial life. It touched the cold soil in 2012 and has since been investigating the planet's climate and geology. Curiosity has snapped hundreds of thousands of incredible photos of both the sky and the ground. It showed us what mysteries Mars holds and even found organic salts.

Now, the rover has sent back some images of an intriguing structure that looks like a delicate flower growing out of the soil. Using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) instrument located at the end of its robotic arm, Curiosity took a close-up picture of Mars' surface, revealing what scientists call "diagenetic crystal clusters."

They consist of three-dimensional crystal clusters formed due to an erosion of sedimentary rock that was "cemented by mineral-rich groundwater." This is not the first time Curiosity has found something like this. Back in 2013, the machine stumbled upon different sand grains grouped together that looked like flowers as well.

But those were much smaller (about 1 to 2 mm/ 0.04 to 0.08 in). The size of the clusters that were recently spotted by the rover is 1 cm (0.3 in). And while it seems like it's just a picture, there are actually several images combined.

The MAHLI instrument generated what we see by combining two to eight photos using an onboard focusing process, which is a means of making a composite of photographs of the same subject obtained at different focus positions bring as many details as possible into focus in a single image.

The result is a photo that captures clearly the details of this small, fragile-looking thing. And it might not be an actual flower, but these findings suggest that Mars had once liquid water flowing across its surface.



 
 
 
 
 

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