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Le 30 mars 2021, Curiosity — le rover de la Nasa qui explore la surface de Mars depuis 2012 — prenait un selfie devant le mont Mercou, un rocher de six mètres de haut posé dans le cratère Gale. Dans les semaines et les mois qui viennent, les chercheurs attendent de lui qu’il leur renvoie des informations précises sur la composition chimique des strates qui composent le mont Sharp qui se dresse au centre du cratère. Objectif : comprendre les changements climatiques martiens. © Nasa, JPL-Caltech, MSSS

“For the first time, we can trace the evolution of climate in millions of years.”

When it landed on Mars last February, diligence stole the show from another rover: Curiosity. It has been almost ten years since the latter explored the Gale Valley. In the past, a Franco-American team discovered that Mars’ climate is characterized by changes in dry seasons and wet seasons thanks to its Chemcom telescope. CNRS researcher William Robin explains.

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NASA’s diligent Mars 2020 mission captured spectacular images of its rover landing in the Xero Mars abyss on February 18, 2021. © NASA / JBL-Caltech

In 2012, The Rover interested Landed on Mars. A heavy machine, almost 900 Kilograms. It aims to explore the gigantic impact crater, the 150-kilometer-diameter Gale crater. “In the center of this abyss, we find places to fill it Sediment. In Sedimentary rocks It is partially eroded and forms a mountain five kilometers high – Sharp mount or Aeolis Mons Who recorded a part of the history of Mars ”, Explains CNRS researcher William Robin in the introduction.

“FirstAround the circular path, We already had an idea about the mineral composition of the Sharp Mountain slopes. But to learn more, we had to go there. It is done now. We were able to produce images that detailed the structure of the sedimentary layers and the conditions under which they were formed. “ These vary drastically over an area of ​​several hundred meters of the relief depth explored. Betrayal Climate change Occurred in the past.

William Robin is part of the Franco-American team Round Curiosity. He is still exactly an expertTool Chemcom – For Chemistry Camera completion. “The specialty of this tool – beyond the fact that it is made in France – is that it is fitted Telescope. In principle, this is used to focus Laser To analyze the rocks near the rover. But this time, we have diverted the use of this telescope to record and analyze images. Exteriors In the landscape as Curiosity is close to Sharp Mountain. “

Climate change on Mars

Thanks to the high-resolution images, the telescope Semcom So gave Researchers First look at this region. “We observed new structures there. We found sediments that had not been deposited by lakes, at least in the lower part of the formation, at least above the formation of clay. Weather », Explains William Robin.

At an altitude of several hundred meters, the Cemcom telescope shows even more different structures. This time seems to coincide with the humid environment. “For the first time, we can understand the evolution of the Martian climate over millions of years, but the reason behind it Climate change Being recorded on Sharp Mountain still avoids us. “

Curiosity Rover is back in the picture. “We gave him a road map. Now he has a closer look. Look for clues to help you understand what happened on Mars to allow such climate change.”, Says William Robin. By carrying out chemical analyzes, the combination of these sediments will allow researchers to finally establish precision. “The Curiosity Drill Rick An invaluable tool for us. The powder it produces is analyzed VariationTo X-rays . » Enough to unravel the secrets that Mars still has hidden in these outdoors.

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“Curiosity has come to the sulfate change”, William Robin tells us. “The crops we present in our study are a few meters high. Excitement develops when the rover is climbed Footnotes of Mont Sharp. We can begin our stratigraphic analysis. We are talking about a thickness StraitsAbout 500 meters. It takes us many years to cover this thickness. We don’t know if Curiosity will sustain this. But our goal is to gather as much data as possible to understand the origin of climate change on Mars three billion years ago. ”, Concludes CNRS researcher.

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