Gale (crater)

Gale crater
Curiosity Cradled by Gale Crater.jpg
Aeolis Mons rises from the middle of the crater - the green dot marks the Curiosity rover landing site in Aeolis Palus (click the image to expand, the dot is barely visible at this scale.) North is down in this image.
PlanetMars
Coordinates5°24′S 137°48′E / 5°24′S 137°48′E / -5.4; 137.8
Diameter154 km (96 mi)[1]
EponymWalter Frederick Gale

Gale is a crater, and probable dry lake, on Mars near the northwestern part of the Aeolis quadrangle at 5°24′S 137°48′E / 5°24′S 137°48′E / -5.4; 137.8.[2] It is 154 km (96 mi) in diameter[1] and estimated to be about 3.5-3.8 billion years old.[3] The crater was named after Walter Frederick Gale, an amateur astronomer from Sydney, Australia, who observed Mars in the late 19th century.[4] Aeolis Mons is a mountain in the center of Gale and rises 5.5 km (18,000 ft) high.[5][6] Aeolis Palus is the plain between the northern wall of Gale and the northern foothills of Aeolis Mons.[5][6] Peace Vallis,[7] 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.[8][9][10]

The NASA Mars rover Curiosity, of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, landed in "Yellowknife" Quad 51[11][12][13][14] of Aeolis Palus in Gale at 05:32 UTC August 6, 2012.[15] NASA named the landing location Bradbury Landing on August 22, 2012.[16] Curiosity is exploring Aeolis Mons and surrounding areas.

Description

Colorized shaded relief map of Gale crater. The general landing area for Curiosity on the northwestern crater floor, named Aeolis Palus, is circled. (HRSC data)

Gale crater, named for Walter F. Gale (1865-1945), an amateur astronomer from Australia, spans 154 km (96 mi) in diameter and holds a mountain, Aeolis Mons (informally named "Mount Sharp" to pay tribute to geologist Robert P. Sharp) rising 18,000 ft (5,500 m) from the crater floor, higher than Mount Rainier rises above Seattle. Gale is roughly the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The crater 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. 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.[17]

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 4°30′S 137°24′E / 4°30′S 137°24′E / -4.5; 137.4, at the foot of the layered mountain inside Gale crater. 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).

Scientists chose Gale as the landing site for Curiosity because it has many signs that water was present over its history. The crater's geology is notable for containing both clays and sulfate minerals, which form in water under different conditions and may also 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 microbes. Gale Crater contains a number of fans and deltas that provide information about lake levels in the past, including: Pancake Delta, Western Delta, Farah Vallis delta and the Peace Vallis Fan.[18]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Gale (krater)
العربية: فوهة غيل
Bân-lâm-gú: Gale (îⁿ-khut)
беларуская: Кратар Гейла
български: Гейл (кратер)
čeština: Gale (kráter)
español: Gale (cráter)
français: Gale (cratère)
हिन्दी: गेल क्रेटर
Bahasa Indonesia: Gale (kawah)
italiano: Cratere Gale
עברית: מכתש גייל
Lëtzebuergesch: Gale (Marskrater)
lietuvių: Geilo krateris
magyar: Gale-kráter
Nederlands: Gale (krater)
norsk nynorsk: Gale på Mars
português: Gale (cratera)
română: Craterul Gale
русский: Гейл (кратер)
slovenčina: Gale (kráter)
српски / srpski: Гејл кратер
svenska: Gale (krater)
українська: Ґейл (кратер)