Mount Sharp, officially Aeolis Mons (IPA: [ˈiːəlɨs ˈmɒnz]), is a mountain on Mars. It forms the central peak within Gale crater and is located around 5.08°S 137.85°E, rising 5.5 km (18,000 ft) high from the valley floor. It has the ID of 15,000 in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature from the US Geological Survey.
The rover Curiosity landed on August 6, 2012, near the base of Aeolis Mons.
|Location||Gale crater on Mars|
|Peak||Aeolis Mons – 5.5 km (18,000 ft) high|
|Discoverer||NASA in the 1970s|
|Eponym||Aeolis Mons – Aeolis albedo feature|
Mount Sharp – Robert P. Sharp (1911–2004)
On August 6, 2012, Curiosity (the Mars Science Laboratory rover) landed in "Yellowknife" Quad 51 of Aeolis Palus, next to the mountain. NASA named the landing site Bradbury Landing on August 22, 2012. Aeolis Mons is a primary goal for scientific study. On June 5, 2013, NASA announced that Curiosity would begin an 8 km (5.0 mi) journey from the Glenelg area to the base of Aeolis Mons. On November 13, 2013, NASA announced that an entryway the rover would traverse on its way to Aeolis Mons was to be named "Murray Buttes", in honor of planetary scientist Bruce C. Murray (1931–2013). The trip was expected to take about a year and would include stops along the way to study the local terrain.
The mountain appears to be an enormous mound of eroded sedimentary layers sitting on the central peak of Gale. It rises 5.5 km (18,000 ft) above the northern crater floor and 4.5 km (15,000 ft) above the southern crater floor, higher than the southern crater rim. The sediments may have been laid down over an interval of 2 billion years, and may have once completely filled the crater. Some of the lower sediment layers may have originally been deposited on a lake bed, while observations of possibly cross-bedded strata in the upper mound suggest aeolian processes. However, this issue is debated, and the origin of the lower layers remains unclear. If katabatic wind deposition played the predominant role in the emplacement of the sediments, as suggested by reported 3 degree radial slopes of the mound's layers, erosion would have come into play largely to place an upper limit on the mound's growth.
On December 8, 2014, a panel of NASA scientists discussed (archive 62:03) the latest observations of Curiosity about how water may have helped shape the landscape of Mars, including Aeolis Mons, and had a climate long ago that could have produced long-lasting lakes at many Martian locations.
On October 8, 2015, NASA confirmed that lakes and streams existed in Gale crater 3.3 - 3.8 billion years ago delivering sediments to build up the lower layers of Mount Sharp.
On February 1, 2019, NASA scientists reported that Curiosity had determined, for the first time, the density of Mount Sharp in Gale crater, thereby establishing a clearer understanding of how the mountain was formed.
Aeolis Mons is 5.5 km (18,000 ft) high, about the same height as Mons Huygens, the tallest lunar mountain, and taller than Mons Hadley visited by Apollo 15. The tallest mountain known in the Solar System is in Rheasilvia crater on the asteroid Vesta, which contains a central mound that rises 22 km (14 mi; 72,000 ft) high; Olympus Mons on Mars is nearly the same height, at 21.9 km (13.6 mi; 72,000 ft) high.
In comparison, Mount Everest rises to 8.8 km (29,000 ft) altitude above sea level (asl), but is only 4.6 km (15,000 ft) (base-to-peak) (btp). Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro is about 5.9 km (19,000 ft) altitude above sea level to the Uhuru peak; also 4.6 km base-to-peak. America's Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, has a base-to-peak of 5.5 km (18,000 ft). The Franco-Italian Mont Blanc/Monte Bianco is 4.8 km (16,000 ft) in altitude above sea level, Mount Fuji, which overlooks Tokyo, Japan, is about 3.8 km (12,000 ft) altitude. Compared to the Andes, Aeolis Mons would rank outside the hundred tallest peaks, being roughly the same height as Argentina's Cerro Pajonal; the peak is higher than any above sea level in Oceania, but base-to peak it is considerably shorter than Hawaii's Mauna Kea and its neighbors.
Discovered in the 1970s, the mountain remained unnamed for several decades. When Gale crater became a candidate landing site, the mountain was given various labels e.g. in 2010 a NASA photo caption called it "Gale crater mound". In March 2012, NASA unofficially named it "Mount Sharp", after American geologist Robert P. Sharp.
Since 1919 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has been the official body responsible for planetary nomenclature. Under its long-established rules for naming features on Mars, mountains are named after the Classical albedo feature in which they are located, not after people. In May 2012 the IAU officially named the mountain Aeolis Mons after the Aeolis albedo feature. It also gave the name Aeolis Palus to the plain located on the crater floor between the northern wall of Gale and the northern foothills of the mountain. The IAU's choice of name is supported by the United States Geological Survey. Martian craters are named after deceased scientists, so in recognition of NASA and Sharp, at the same time the IAU named "Robert Sharp", a large (150 km (93 mi) diameter), crater located about 260 km (160 mi) west of Gale.
NASA and the European Space Agency continue to refer to the mountain as "Mount Sharp" in press conferences and press releases. This is similar to their use of other informal names, such as the Columbia Hills near one of the Mars Exploration Rover landing sites.
In August 2012, the magazine Sky & Telescope ran an article explaining the rationale of the two names and held an informal poll to determine which one was preferred by their readers. Over 2700 people voted, with Aeolis Mons winning by 57% to Mount Sharp's 43%.
On December 16, 2014, NASA reported detecting, based on measurements by the Curiosity rover, an unusual increase, then decrease, in the amounts of methane in the atmosphere of the planet Mars; as well as, detecting Martian organic chemicals in powder drilled from a rock by the rover. 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.
On June 1, 2017, NASA reported that the Curiosity rover provided evidence of an ancient lake in Gale crater on Mars that could have been favorable for microbial life; the ancient lake was stratified, with shallows rich in oxidants and depths poor in oxidants; and, the ancient lake provided many different types of microbe-friendly environments at the same time. NASA further reported that the Curiosity rover will continue to explore higher and younger layers of Mount Sharp in order to determine how the lake environment in ancient times on Mars became the drier environment in more modern times.
On August 5, 2017, NASA celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Curiosity landing, and related exploratory accomplishments, on the planet Mars. (Videos: Curiosity's First Five Years (02:07); Curiosity's POV: Five Years Driving (05:49); Curiosity's Discoveries About Gale Crater (02:54))
On April 11, 2019, NASA announced that Curiosity had drilled into, and closely studied, a "clay-bearing unit" which, according to the rover Project Manager, is a "major milestone" in Curiosity's journey up Mount Sharp.
|Curiosity at Mount Sharp|
As of December 16, 2019, Curiosity has been on the planet Mars for 2488 sols (2556 total days; 7 years ) since landing on August 6, 2012. Since September 11, 2014, Curiosity has been exploring the slopes of Mount Sharp, where more information about the history of Mars is expected to be found. As of late July 2019, the rover has traveled over 21.08 km (13.10 mi) and climbed over 327 m (1,073 ft) in elevation to, and around, the mountain base since landing at "Bradbury Landing" in August 2012.
Mount Sharp - related Images
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- Aeolis Mons
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aeolis Mons.|
|Look up Aeolis Mons in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Google Mars scrollable map – centered on Aeolis Mons.
- Aeolis Mons – Curiosity Rover "StreetView" (Sol 2 – 08/08/2012) – NASA/JPL – 360° Panorama
- Aeolis Mons – Curiosity Rover Mission Summary – Video (02:37)
- Aeolis Mons – HiRise (South side of mountain)
- Aeolis Mons – "Mount Sharp" Oblique (19,663px × 1,452px)
- Aeolis Mons – Gale crater – Image/THEMIS VIS 18m/px Mosaic (Zoomable) (small)
- Aeolis Mons – Gale crater – image/HRSCview
- Aeolis Mons – HRSCview (oblique view looking east)
- Aeolis Mons – 7,703px × 2,253px black & white panorama
- Aeolis Mons – Color Panorama by Damien Bouic
- Images – PIA16105 PIA16104 Color view
- High-resolution overflight videos: #1; #2; #3; #4 (based on HiRISE data) of the lower slopes of Mt. Sharp by Seán Doran (see album for more)
- Video (04:32) – Evidence: Water "Vigorously" Flowed On Mars (September 2012) on YouTube
- Video (66:00) – Gale Crater History (26 May 2015) on YouTube
- Video (02:54) – Gale Crater Guide (2 August 2017) on YouTube