Monday Astronomy Picture Ponderings (MAPPs) 3/14/22
Welcome back to the Monday Astronomy Picture Ponderings (MAPPs) series where every Monday I pick one of NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) entries from the past seven days to focus on in some way.
This picture from the Curiosity Rover on Mars has caused quite a stir in the past couple of weeks. NASA unveiled the picture to the world on their official websites and in social media posts such as on Twitter and Instagram. People were of course curious about the formation, information which NASA was happy to provide.
Despite how exciting it would be if the “Martian flower” was a fossilized flower or coral, the structure is actually based on mineral interactions versus carbon life forms.
As the NASA APOD page explains
“One theory that has emerged is that the rock is a type of concretion created by minerals deposited by water in cracks or divisions in existing rock. These concretions can be compacted together, can be harder and denser than surrounding rock, and can remain even after the surrounding rock erodes away. The flower structure may also be caused by crystal clusters. The small rock, named Blackthorn Salt, has similarities to previously imaged Martian pebbles.”
This is also not the first structure of this kind we have found on Mars before as Planetary scientist and Curiosity Mars rover Deputy Project Scientist, Abigail Fraeman, explains in her Tweet thread below.
While not a fossilized flower, coral, or other signs of past organic life, these concretions are still fascinating because it helps us better understand Mars in the past, which can also help us better understand our own world.