NASA’s Curiosity Rover has created a picture of a mineral formation that is shaped like a flower. The formation resembles a coral or sea anemone in the picture, but it is just a lifeless structure. According to Space.com, the flower-like rock has been named Blackthorn Salt and it is a diagenetic feature, which means that it is made from mineral deposits left behind an ancient water body.
Images of the structure were merged on February 25, after they were captured near Aeolis Mons (Mount Sharp), which is a martian mountain that forms the central peak within the Gale crater in March. The Curiosity Rover was designed to explore this crater and has been doing so since it landed on Mars in August 2012.
The image was created merging between two and eight images previously taken the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) which is located on a turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. Focus merging was used to merge the multiple images in such a way as to ensure that as many of the features into focus.
Abigail Fraeman, a Deputy Scient for the Curiosity Mars Rover project tweeted the same picture with a United States penny juxtaposed on it approximately to scale to help people understand the actual size of the structure. The Lincoln Penny photoshopped onto the image the scient is actually from an image of a penny that is part of a camera calibration target on the Curiosity Rover.
(1/3) Your Friday moment of zen: A beautiful new microscopic image from @MarsCuriosity shows teeny, tiny delicate structures that formed mineral precipitating from water.
(Penny approximately for scale added me)https://t.co/cs7t11BWAj pic.twitter.com/AU20LjY5pQ
— Abigail Fraeman (@abfrae) February 26, 2022
According to Fraeman, similar structures have been discovered on Mars in the past, most notably at Pahrump Hills, an outcrop at the base of Aeolis Mons. Over there, the features were made of salts called Sulfates.