|Diameter||154 km (96 mi)|
|Eponym||Walter Frederick Gale|
Gale is a crater on Mars near the northwestern part of the Aeolis quadrangle at . It is 154 km (96 mi) in diameter and estimated to be about 3.5-3.8 billion years old. The crater was named after Walter Frederick Gale, an amateur astronomer from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, who observed Mars in the late 19th century. Aeolis Mons is a mountain in the center of Gale and rises 5.5 km (18,000 ft) high. Aeolis Palus is the plain between the northern wall of Gale and the northern foothills of Aeolis Mons. Peace Vallis, a nearby outflow channel, 'flows' down from the Gale crater hills to the Aeolis Palus below and seems to have been carved by flowing water.
The NASA Mars rover, Curiosity, of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, landed in "Yellowknife" Quad 51 of Aeolis Palus in Gale at 05:32 UTC August 6, 2012. NASA named the landing location Bradbury Landing on August 22, 2012. Curiosity is expected to explore Aeolis Mons and surrounding areas.
An unusual feature of Gale is an enormous mound of "sedimentary debris" around its central peak, officially named Aeolis Mons (popularly known as "Mount Sharp") rising 5.5 km (18,000 ft) above the northern crater floor and 4.5 km (15,000 ft) above the southern crater floor - slightly taller than the southern rim of the crater itself. The mound is composed of layered material and may have been laid down over a period of around 2 billion years. The origin of this mound is not known with certainty, but research suggests it is the eroded remnant of sedimentary layers that once filled the crater completely, possibly originally deposited on a lakebed. However, debate exists around this issue. Observations of possible cross-bedded strata on the upper mound suggest aeolian processes, but the origin of the lower mound layers remains ambiguous.
Gale is located at about on Mars.
At 10:32 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5, 2012 (1:32 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6, 2012), the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, landed on Mars at Walter F. Gale (1865-1945), an amateur astronomer from Australia., at the foot of a layered mountain inside Gale crater. The crater is named for
Gale formed when a meteor hit Mars in its early history, about 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago. The meteor impact punched a hole in the terrain, and the subsequent explosion ejected rocks and soil that landed around the crater. Scientists chose Gale as the landing site for Curiosity because it has many signs that water was present over its history. Water is a key ingredient of life as we know it.
Minerals called clays and sulfates are byproducts of water. They also may preserve signs of past life. The history of water at Gale, as recorded in its rocks, is giving Curiosity lots of clues to study as it pieces together whether Mars ever could have been a habitat for small life forms called microbes. Gale is special because both clays and sulfate minerals, which formed in water under different conditions, can be observed.
Gale spans 154 km (96 mi) in diameter and holds a mountain, Aeolis Mons (previously informally named "Mount Sharp" to pay tribute to geologist Robert P. Sharp) rising higher from the crater floor than Mount Rainier rises above Seattle. Gale is about the combined area of Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Curiosity landed within a landing ellipse approximately 7 km (4.3 mi) by 20 km (12 mi). The landing ellipse is about 4,400 m (14,400 ft) below Martian "sea level" (defined as the average elevation around the equator). The expected near-surface atmospheric temperatures at the landing site during Curiosity 's primary mission (1 Martian year or 687 Earth days) are from −90 °C (−130 °F) to 0 °C (32 °F).
Layering in the central mound (Aeolis Mons) suggests it is the surviving remnant of an extensive sequence of deposits. Some scientists believe the crater filled in with sediments and, over time, the relentless Martian winds carved Aeolis Mons, which today rises about 5.5 km (3.4 mi) above the floor of Gale—three times higher than the Grand Canyon is deep.
Numerous channels eroded into the flanks of the crater's central mound could give access to the layers for study. Gale is the landing site of the Curiosity rover, delivered by the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, which was launched 26 November 2011 and landed on Mars at Gale crater on the plains of Aeolis Palus on 6 August 2012. Gale was previously a candidate landing site for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover mission, and has been one of four prospective sites for ESA's ExoMars.
In December 2012, scientists working on the Mars Science Laboratory mission announced that an extensive soil analysis of Martian soil performed by Curiosity showed evidence of water molecules, sulphur and chlorine, as well as hints of organic compounds. However, terrestrial contamination, as the source of the organic compounds, could not be ruled out.
On September 26, 2013, NASA scientists reported that Curiosity detected "abundant, easily accessible" water (1.5 to 3 weight percent) in soil samples at the Rocknest region of Aeolis Palus in Gale. In addition, the rover found two principal soil types: a fine-grained mafic type and a locally derived, coarse-grained felsic type. The mafic type, similar to other martian soils and martian dust, was associated with hydration of the amorphous phases of the soil. Also, perchlorates, the presence of which may make detection of life-related organic molecules difficult, were found at the Curiosity landing site (and earlier at the more polar site of the Phoenix lander) suggesting a "global distribution of these salts". NASA also reported that Jake M rock, a rock encountered by Curiosity on the way to Glenelg, was a mugearite and very similar to terrestrial mugearite rocks.
On December 9, 2013, NASA reported that, based on evidence from Curiosity studying Aeolis Palus, Gale contained an ancient freshwater lake which could have been a hospitable environment for microbial life.
On December 16, 2014, NASA reported detecting, by the Curiosity rover at Gale Crater, an unusual increase, then decrease, in the amounts of methane in the atmosphere of the planet Mars; in addition, organic chemicals were detected in powder drilled from a rock. Also, based on deuterium to hydrogen ratio studies, much of the water at Gale Crater on Mars was found to have been lost during ancient times, before the lakebed in the crater was formed; afterwards, large amounts of water continued to be lost.
Map of Aeolis quadrangle - Gale is in the upper left - Aeolis Mons is in the middle of the crater.
Gale crater landing site is within Aeolis Palus near Aeolis Mons - north is down.
Gale sediment layers may have formed by lake or windblown particle deposition.
Curiosity landing site (green dot) - blue dot marks "Glenelg Intrigue" - blue spot marks base of Aeolis Mons - a planned area of study.
Layers at the base of Aeolis Mons - dark rock in inset is same size as Curiosity (white balanced image).
Aeolis Mons in Gale as viewed by Curiosity (August 9, 2012) (white balanced image).
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- Mars Science Laboratory: Multimedia-Images
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gale Crater.|
- Google Mars scrollable map - centered on Gale Crater.
- Gale Crater - Curiosity Rover "StreetView" (Sol 2 - 08/08/2012) - NASA/JPL - 360º Panorama from 360pano.eu
- Gale Crater - Curiosity Rover Landing Site (07/21/2012) – Video (02:37) on YouTube
- Gale Crater - Central Debris Mound from lpl.arizona.edu
- Gale Crater - Layers from lpl.arizona.edu
- Gale Crater - Image/THEMIS VIS 18m/px Mosaic from mars.asu.edu (Zoomable) (small)
- Gale Crater - Surroundings from HRSCview.fu-berlin.de
- Gale Crater - 3D version by ESA
- Video (04:32) - Evidence: Water "Vigorously" Flowed On Mars - September, 2012