NASA’s Curiosity Rover Spots a Bed of Earth-Like Pebbles on Mars' Surface


NASA's Curiosity rover has been up to its wheel treads with Mars pebbles lately. The rover is rolling to a potential drill site, but it's doing some sightseeing along the way. The views include a fascinating collection of rounded pebbles.

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While some of the rocks look like they could have been culled from a stream bed, some of the smaller and grayer pebbles look like wonderfully round peas.  Software engineer Kevin M. Gill, who wrangles data for NASA and processes space images (like this gorgeous Jupiter shot), offered up an enhanced version of the pebble field that really helps the grayer stones stand out from the others.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Sol 2356

Curiosity's raw images from March 23 and 24 are full of different views of these rocks. The rover team is investigating the pebbles to learn more about their chemical makeup. Some of the pebbles are reminiscent of rocks previously seen on the Red Planet that resemble blueberries or miniature cannonballs. 

Some "blueberries" spotted by the Opportunity rover in 2004 are the size of BBs and rich in hematite. NASA suggested those spherules may be "concretions that grew inside water-soaked deposits."

Curiosity seems to be functioning just fine after encountering some technical hiccups in February and earlier in March. NASA switched the rover over to a different computer "brain" to get it back into operation. These lovely new images of Mars' marvelous pebbles are a good sign the mission is running smoothly again.

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