The new findings join those announced on March 12, in which Curiosity’s science team announced the discovery of sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon — some of the key chemical ingredients for life — in the powder that Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock called John Klein in February.
The two findings suggest the rocks either rolled from the walls of Gale Crater or Mount Sharp, which rises from the crater floor, for the first round of exposure. Over time, as the rocks cracked, they were exposed for a second time to surface or subsurface water that changed the mineral composition.
“With Mastcam, we see elevated hydration signals in the narrow veins that cut many of the rocks in this area,” Rice said.
The hydrated minerals are forms of water or hydroxide left over from watery exposures, said Jim Bell of Arizona State University, who serves as the Mastcam co-investigator.
A second instrument on Curiosity, the Russian-made Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN), has also found evidence of previous concentrations of water beneath the rover’s easterly traverse from its landing site, according to Maxim Litvak, the DAN deputy principal investigator from the Space Research Institute of Moscow.
“More water is detected at Yellowknife Bay than earlier on the route,” Litvak reported. “Even within Yellowknife Bay, we see significant variation.”