I love thinking about how martian research can help us better understand our own planet
Some of the dark sandstone in an area being explored by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows texture and inclined bedding structures characteristic of deposits that formed as sand dunes, then were cemented into rock.
This sandstone outcrop—part of a geological layer that Curiosity’s science team calls the Stimson unit—has a structure called crossbedding on a large scale that the team has interpreted as deposits of sand dunes formed by wind. Similar-looking petrified sand dunes are common in the U.S. Southwest. Geometry and orientation of the crossbedding give information about the directions of the winds that produced the dunes.
The Stimson unit overlies a layer of mudstone that was deposited in a lake environment. Curiosity has been examining successively higher and younger layers of Mount Sharp, starting with the mudstone at the mountain’s…
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