NASA’s Curiosity rover has revealed the purple rocks on the surface of the Red planet Mars. The photos were taken near the base of 18,000-foot Mount Sharp, one of Mars’s tallest summits.
Variations in colour of the rocks hint at the diversity of their composition on lower Mount Sharp. Curiosity has been exploring the slopes of the enormous mountain for over two years, sending photos back to NASA the entire time.
The purple coloration is caused by the presence of hematite, an iron oxide commonly used on Earth as a pigment, or jewellery component.
Scientists studying Mars find the presence of hematite interesting, as it is typically formed in an aqueous environment, suggesting that water may have once been present in the area.
Curiosity is a car-sized robotic rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission (MSL).
Curiosity has been on Mars for 1563 sols (1606 total days) since landing on August 6, 2012.
Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011, aboard the MSL spacecraft and landed on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012.
The Bradbury Landing site was less than 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from the center of the rover’s touchdown target after a 563,000,000 km (350,000,000 mi) journey.
The rover’s goals include: investigation of the Martian climate and geology; assessment of whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including investigation of the role of water; and planetary habitability studies in preparation for future human exploration.
Curiosity’s design will serve as the basis for the planned Mars 2020 rover. In December 2012, Curiosity’s two-year mission was extended indefinitely.