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A new study has discovered a powerful force that is now driving evolution on Earth.

On Mars, the Curiosity rover captures a close-up of a tiny'mineral flower.'

When the Red Planet was still covered in water, the lovely branching rock formed.

On Mars' surface, NASA's Curiosity rover recently got up close and personal with a tiny, flower-like mineral deposit. The lovely branching rock, which is only 0.4 inch (1 centimetre) wide, resembles a coral or a sponge in appearance. The deposit, despite its resemblance to a living entity, is not alive and is a rather typical sight over the Martian terrain.

Curiosity took a photo of the small mineral flower on Feb. 25 near Aeolis Mons, also known as Mount Sharp, which is located in the heart of the 96-mile-wide (154-kilometer) Gale crater that the rover has been exploring since its arrival on Mars in 2012. The image is a composite of several shots taken by Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager, which uses a magnifying lens to take close-ups. According to NASA, this form of composite shot allows the rover to produce far more detailed photographs.

The Blackthorn Salt, a flower-like rock, is a diagenetic characteristic, meaning it is made up of minerals that precipitated from ancient water that had previously been mixed with Martian rock. Diagenetic characteristics observed on Mars are comparable in size but can be branched, also known as dendritic form, as shown in the Blackthorn Salt, or more rounded or even spherical, as seen in other rocks in the same shot.

We've seen similar diagenetic characteristics previously, but this dendritic structure is really lovely.

Since arriving in Gale crater, Curiosity has discovered a number of interesting diagenetic characteristics. That's hardly surprising, given that the crater could have originally been a lake, supplying the water needed to form such features. In 2015, many more flower-like deposits were discovered in the Pahrump Hills area, and in 2019, the Murray formation revealed new diagenetic traits.

Curiosity's older sibling, the Opportunity rover, discovered a number of spherical structures with a bluish-silver hue on Meridiani Planum — a plain-like terrain near the Martian equator — in 2004, giving them the moniker "Martian blueberries." Because they were made of hematite, a form of iron oxide, these rocks were blue. The composition and colour of the Blackthorn Salt and other characteristics photographed by Curiosity are nearly identical to that of the surrounding bedrock.

It's critical to keep documenting novel diagenetic features like the Blackthorn Salt because it could aid researchers in determining when liquid water vanished from Mars. At Mount Sharp, we can learn more about the complicated and long-lived history of water. This could provide greater insight into how long the environment was potentially livable to life.