Perseverance Mars rover uncovers the watery history of Jezero crater

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By Leah Crane

Perseverance Mars rover

A selfie of the Perseverance Mars rover

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Perseverance rover has taken immoderate of the astir elaborate measurements ever of Mars rocks, yielding insights into the water that erstwhile filled Jezero crater.

When the rover landed connected Mars successful February, researchers were instantly intrigued by layered outcroppings adjacent its landing spot successful Jezero crater. The ground-penetrating radar instrumentality that Perseverance carries allowed it to measurement the layers of rocks beneath its wheels arsenic it drove crossed the Martian surface, showing that these outcroppings extended underground.

The caller findings were presented by members of the ngo squad connected 15 December astatine a gathering of the American Geophysical Union successful New Orleans, Louisiana. “We tin really spot that these layers widen down into the subsurface and spell underneath the crater floor,” said Briony Horgan astatine Purdue University successful Indiana. “We tin really hint them down.” Tracking the layers showed that they marque up the oldest rocks successful the crater.

But erstwhile the rover took much elaborate measurements, scraping disconnected the aboveground of the rocks and looking intimately astatine their compositions, the results amazed the researchers. “These rocks that we primitively thought mightiness beryllium sedimentary rocks, these are successful information igneous [volcanic] rocks,” said Kelsey Moore astatine the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). “And adjacent much excitingly, they’re not conscionable igneous rocks – there’s much past to the story.”

The investigation of the rocks’ compositions revealed minerals that are mostly produced by interactions betwixt h2o and rock, arsenic good arsenic traces of 2 antithetic salts that were astir apt near down arsenic salty h2o flowed done the cracks and pores successful the volcanic rock.

The assortment of minerals indicates that these rocks were astir apt underwater astatine slightest twice. “Two antithetic types of liquid with 2 antithetic types of chemistries points towards 2 antithetic episodes of liquid h2o interaction,” said Eva Scheller, besides astatine Caltech.

Studying these rocks much intimately could springiness america a amended thought of whether the water that erstwhile – oregon possibly doubly – filled Jezero crater could person been habitable. “We cognize that circumstantial types of minerals signifier nether circumstantial conditions, truthful if we tin get a amended thought of the minerals that are there… it volition springiness america an thought of what that h2o looked similar and whether oregon not it could person hosted beingness successful the past,” said Moore. If the rover itself isn’t capable to fig that out, the samples it is collecting for a aboriginal ngo to instrumentality to Earth should help.

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