2 July 2019
Curiosity is currently near the top of Harlaw Rise, having made a slight diversion from the southward drive through the clay-bearing unit to explore the nice exposures of rocks on this hill. In today’s plan, Curiosity will investigate two rock targets in front of the rover: ‘Perth,’ on the block in the lower left of the image above, and ‘Aberdeen,’ on the smoother surface near the far right-hand side of the image. There is only enough time in this plan to put the arm on one of these two targets, so Perth will get a closer look with the MAHLI microscopic imager and APXS instrument, and ‘Aberdeen’ will get shot by the ChemCam laser. The Mastcam cameras will document both targets. After that, Curiosity will make a short drive further up the hill to a spot where both of these rock types might be better exposed.
Why do we give names like ‘Perth’ and ‘Aberdeen’ to Curiosity’s rock targets? How does the largest city in Western Australia end up right next to a Washington State timber town? As a Long-Term Planner for the Curiosity science team, one of my responsibilities is to keep track of the names that the team uses, and to make sure that they fit within the theme for this portion of the rover’s traverse. Curiosity is currently in a region of the team’s geologic map called the Torridon Quadrangle, named after a village in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland, which is near an important geological formation called the Torridonian Supergroup. Therefore, all of the names assigned to targets in this region of Curiosity’s traverse come from landforms, geologic formations, and towns in that part of Scotland. So the namesakes of today’s ‘Perth’ and ‘Aberdeen’ rock targets on Mars are the same as those of all the other Perths and Aberdeens out there: Perth, Scotland, and Aberdeen, Scotland.
Happy Canada Day today, especially to those in Perth, Ontario, and Aberdeen, Saskatchewan!
Written by Melissa Rice, Planetary Geologist at Western Washington University