by Cat Ellen, contributing writer

‘Bonanza King’ target drilling candidate (photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Preparation for the fourth drilling

Engineers working with NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover are buckling down to evaluate the next drilling site on Mars. Nicknamed ‘Bonanza King,’ the pale paving stone appears to have ridges that might reveal possible mineral veins.

“Geologically speaking, we can tie the Bonanza King rocks to those at Pahrump Hills. Studying them here will give us a head start in understanding how they fit into the bigger picture of Gale Crater and Mount Sharp,” said Curiosity Deputy Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Long-term science plans include extensive studies at Mount Sharp, likely made up of layers that could reveal environmental changes in ancient Mars. The outcropping appears different from the sandstones examined so far by Curiosity. And differences could mean everything to these researchers.

Images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter indicate the tumbled path of an irregularly shaped boulder (path from upper left to middle right) (photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Rolling boulders

When various tweets appear to focus on “Rock Rolls Down Hill!” you might be tempted to wonder which satire news source has been active. But this time, what seemed like comedy was another exciting detail in the lives of researchers training their observational skills on other planets in our solar system. Not all our knowledge about Mars has been coming from our surface rovers. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter provides the aerial research component and provided evidence that boulders careen down hills on Mars, just as here on Earth.

Satellite imagery shows a trail down the slope, where the irregularly shaped Martian boulder finally landed, tall end up, casting high-contrast shadows for the Orbiter.

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Cat Ellen
Cat Ellen

Cat Ellen is a technical writer by trade, an occasional copy editor
and beta reader, and has a passion for teaching ATS bellydance and
numerous textile arts, notably drop spindle and card weaving.