Curiosity Ready to Drill for Gold at the Kimberley
Curiosity Ready to Drill for Gold at the Kimberley
ESP_036128_1755  Science Theme: Future Exploration/Landing Sites
Black gold, that is: organic material, which could be a biomarker (sign of past life), the holy grail of Mars exploration.

Last December at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, MSL Project Scientist John Grotzinger talked about what the team learned at Yellowknife Bay, and why they would stop and drill again at a place named “the Kimberley.”

The mudstones at Yellowknife Bay had been exposed recently—to a geologist—less than 100 million years ago. They deduced that this was due to erosion of overlying layers by the wind, and that even younger exposure ages should be possible closer to the scarp.

This matters because Mars doesn’t have a magnetosphere and thick atmosphere like Earth, protecting us from energetic particles from space that break down organic material. Thus, rocks that have been near the surface of Mars for a long time (geologically speaking) are less likely to contain complex organic material. Complex organic material might be the remains of past life, or at least inform us about past habitability. And when we say “habitability,” we mean the potential to support life, whether or not life ever actually existed there.

The rover had left Yellowknife Bay and wasn’t going to turn around, but similar scarps lay ahead, on the way to Aeolis Mons. Last December they had already chosen their next target—the Kimberley—where they recently arrived, in part because it also has what appear to be geologically young scarps. This HiRISE image shows the rover approaching one of the scarps. (See also the stereo anaglyph of this site produced from this image by Tim Parker at JPL. )

Written by: Alfred McEwen (audio: Tre Gibbs)  (16 April 2014)
Acquisition date
11 April 2014

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
269.1 km (167.3 miles)

Original image scale range
27.0 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~81 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
57°, with the Sun about 33° above the horizon

Solar longitude
115.0°, Northern Summer

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  37.1°
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Merged IRB
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IRB color
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Black and white
map-projected  (462MB)
non-map           (445MB)

IRB color
map projected  (190MB)
non-map           (466MB)

Merged IRB
map projected  (229MB)

Merged RGB
map-projected  (220MB)

RGB color
non map           (464MB)
Map-projected, reduced-resolution
Full resolution JP2 download
Anaglyph details page

B&W label
Color label
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EDR products

IRB: infrared-red-blue
RGB: red-green-blue
About color products (PDF)

Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
For scale, use JPEG/JP2 black & white map-projected images

All of the images produced by HiRISE and accessible on this site are within the public domain: there are no restrictions on their usage by anyone in the public, including news or science organizations. We do ask for a credit line where possible:

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.