NASA’s Curiosity rover has drilled down into Mars to collect samples, and it’s revealed that just under the dusty red surface, the Red Planet is actually a greyish blue.
The drilling happened at a site called Telegraph Peak, right up in a region called Pahrump Hills, where Curiosity has been working for the past five months. It’s been drilling into the rocky surface to get some idea of how and when Mars evolved from a wet environment to the dry and dusty one we see today, and in the process has discovered that the dusty red top layer is made up of completely different stuff than the actual planet itself.
Scientists have known for years that Mars is made up mostly of silicon and oxygen, plus iron, magnesium, aluminium, calcium, and potassium. But by analysing the chemical make-up of the blueish-grey samples extracted from Telegraph Peak using the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) on the rover’s arm – nicknamed ChemCam – and its internal Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument, the team at NASA has now found that this particular site is super high in silicon.
“When you graph the ratios of silica to magnesium and silica to aluminium, ‘Telegraph Peak’ is toward the end of the range we’ve seen,” Curiosity co-investigator Doug Ming, from the NASA Johnson Space Centre in the US, said in a press release. “It’s what you would expect if there has been some acidic leaching. We want to see what minerals are present where we found this chemistry.” Via Curiosity drill site reveals Mars isn’t red – it’s greyish-blue