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Mount Sharp

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Subject: Gale (crater), Mars Science Laboratory, Cerberus Hemisphere, Ultimi Scopuli, Barnacle Bill (Martian rock)
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Mount Sharp

Aeolis Mons
The rover Curiosity landed on August 6, 2012 near the base of Aeolis Mons (or "Mount Sharp").
Location Gale crater on Mars
Peak Aeolis Mons - 5.5 km (18,000 ft) high[1]
Discoverer NASA in the 1970s
Eponym Aeolis Mons - Aeolis albedo feature
Mount Sharp - Robert P. Sharp (1911-2004)
Gale crater mound - Gale crater

Aeolis Mons (IPA: ), also unofficially known as Mount Sharp, is a mountain on Mars. It forms the central peak within Gale crater and is located around , rising 5.5 km (18,000 ft) high from the valley floor. It is feature ID 15000.[2]

Curiosity (the Mars Science Laboratory rover) landed in "Yellowknife" Quad 51[3][4][5][6] of Aeolis Palus,[7] next to the mountain, on August 6, 2012. NASA named the landing site Bradbury Landing on August 22, 2012.[8] Aeolis Mons is a primary goal for scientific study.[21] On June 5, 2013, NASA announced that Curiosity will soon begin a 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 Curiosity will traverse on its way to Aeolis Mons will be named "Murray Buttes", in honor of planetary scientist Bruce C. Murray (1931-2013).[10] The trip was expected to take about a year and would include stops along the way to study the local terrain.[11][12][13]

On September 11, 2014, NASA announced that the Curiosity rover had reached Aeolis Mons, the rover mission's long-term prime destination.[14][15]


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,[16] and may have once completely filled the crater. Some of the lower sediment layers may have originally been deposited on a lake bed,[16] while observations of possibly cross-bedded strata in the upper mound suggest aeolian processes.[17] However, this issue is debated,[18][19] and the origin of the lower layers remains unclear.[17] 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.[20][22]

Understanding size

Mons Hadley, on the Moon, is 4.5 km (15,000 ft) high.[23]
Mountain km high
Aeolis 5.5
Huygens 5.5
Denali 5.5 (btp)
Blanc 4.8 (asl)
Uhuru 4.6 (btp)
Fuji 3.8 (asl)
Zugspitze 3

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.

Mount Everest rises to 8.8 km (29,000 ft) altitude above sea level but is only 4.6 km (15,000 ft) (base-to-peak).[24] Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro is about 5.9 km (19,000 ft) altitude above sea level to the Uhuru peak;[25] also 4.6 km base-to-peak.[26] America's Mt. McKinley, also known as Denali, has a base-to-peak of 5.5 km (18,000 ft).[27] The Franco-Italian Mont Blanc/Monte Bianco is 4.8 km (16,000 ft) in altitude above sea level,[28][29] Mount Fuji (富士山), 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 above sea level, but base-to peak it is considerably shorter than Hawaii's Mauna Kea and its neighbors.


Discovered in the 1970s, the mountain remained nameless for perhaps 40 years. When it became a likely landing site, it was given various labels; for example, in 2010 a NASA photo caption called it "Gale crater mound".[30] In March 2012, NASA unofficially named it "Mount Sharp", for American geologist Robert P. Sharp.[1][31]

Comparison of Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) to the sizes of three large mountains on Earth.

The International Astronomical Union, which is responsible for planetary nomenclature for its participants, names large Martian mountains after the Classical albedo feature in which it is located, not for people. In May 2012 the IAU thus named the mountain Aeolis Mons, and gave the name Aeolis Palus to the crater floor plain between the northern wall of Gale and the northern foothills of the mountain.[1][32][33][34] In recognition of NASA and in honour of Sharp, the IAU gave the name "Robert Sharp" to a large crater (150 km (93 mi) in diameter), located about 260 km (160 mi) west of Gale, following its standard practice of naming large craters after scientists.

NASA and the ESA[35] continue to refer to the mountain as "Mount Sharp" in press conferences and press releases. This is similar to other informal names, such as the Columbia Hills near one of the Mars Exploration Rover landing sites. Sky & Telescope explained the rationales of the two names to their readers in August 2012, and held an informal poll to newsletter readers. Over 2700 voted and picked Aeolis Mons over Mount Sharp by 57% to 43%.[31] The official name, "Aeolis Mons", is recorded by the United States Geological Survey.[33]

Aeolis is the ancient name of the Izmir region in western Turkey.

Curiosity at Mount Sharp

On September 11, 2014 (Sol 746), the Curiosity rover reached the slopes of Aeolis Mons (or Mount Sharp), the rover mission's long-term prime destination[14][15] and where the rover is expected to learn more about the history of Mars.[36] Curiosity had traveled an estimated linear distance of 6.9 km (4.3 mi)[37] to the mountain slopes since leaving its "start" point in Yellowknife Bay on July 4, 2013.[37]

The Curiosity rover is exploring the slopes of Mount Sharp.[14][15]
Close-up map - planned route from "Dingo Gap" to "Kimberley" (KMS-9) (related HiRISE image) (February 18, 2014/Sol 547).
Traverse map - Curiosity traveled about 7.1 km (4.4 mi) since leaving its "start" point in Yellowknife Bay on July 4, 2013 (now beyond the "3-sigma safe-to-land ellipse" border line) (related HiRISE image) (September 17, 2014/Sol 751).
Context map - Curiosity '​s trip to Mount Sharp (star = Curiosity; triangle = stops; dot = Mount Sharp) (June 18, 2014/Sol 663).[11][12][13]

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Exploration map - Curiosity rover at the base of Mount Sharp - as viewed from Space (MRO; HiRISE; November 18, 2014/Sol 812).
Geology map - from the crater floor in Aeolis Palus up the Slopes of Mount Sharp (September 11, 2014).
Rocks near the "Pahrump Hills" on the slopes of Mount Sharp as viewed from the Curiosity Rover (September 11, 2014; white balanced).


Curiosity '​s view of "Mount Sharp" (September 20, 2012; white balanced) (raw color).
Curiosity '​s view of the "Rocknest" area - South is center/North at both ends; "Mount Sharp" at SE horizon (somewhat left-of-center); "Glenelg" at East (left-of-center); rover tracks at West (right-of-center) (November 16, 2012; white balanced) (raw color) (interactives).
Curiosity '​s view of "Amargosa Valley" on the slopes of "Mount Sharp" (September 11, 2014).
Curiosity '​s view of Mars sky at sunset (February 2013; sun simulated by artist).

See also


  1. ^  
  2. ^
  3. ^ Mars Science Laboratory: Multimedia-Images

Further reading

  • Jürgen Blunck - Mars and its Satellites, A Detailed Commentary on the Nomenclature, 2nd edition. 1982.

External links

  • Google Mars scrollable map - centered on Aeolis Mons.
  • Aeolis Mons - Curiosity Rover "StreetView" (Sol 2 - 08/08/2012) - NASA/JPL - 360º 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
  • Video (04:32) - Evidence: Water "Vigorously" Flowed On Mars - September, 2012
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