NASA’s Perseverance Makes New Discoveries in Mars’ Jezero Crater, The Mars rover found that Jezero Crater’s floor is made up of volcanic rocks that have interacted with water.
NASA’s Perseverance Makes New Discoveries in Mars’ Jezero Crater, NASA scientists got a big surprise when the Perseverance Mars rover began analyzing rocks on the floor of Jezero Crater in the spring of 2021: They had expected to find sedimentary rock because the crater held a lake billions of years ago. This would have formed when sand and mud settled in a once-watery environment. Instead, they discovered the floor was made of two types of igneous rock – one that formed from volcanic activity at the surface and the other originated from magma deep underground. The findings are described in four new scientific papers published today, August 25, 2022. In Science, one offers an overview of Perseverance’s investigation of the crater floor before it arrived at Jezero’s ancient river delta in April 2022. A second study in the same journal describes in detail the distinctive rocks that appear to have formed from a thick body of magma. The other two papers, published in Science Advances, document the unique ways that Perseverance’s rock-vaporizing laser and ground-penetrating radar established that igneous rocks cover the crater floor.
NASA’s Perseverance Makes New Discoveries in Mars’ Jezero Crater, Igneous rocks make excellent timekeepers. This is because crystals inside them record details about the precise moment they formed. “One great value of the igneous rocks we collected is that they will tell us about when the lake was present in Jezero. We know it was there more recently than the igneous crater floor rocks formed,” said Ken Farley of Caltech, Perseverance’s project scientist and the lead author of the first of the new Science papers. “This will address some major questions: When was Mars’ climate conducive to lakes and rivers on the planet’s surface, and when did it change to the very cold and dry conditions we see today?” However, igneous rock isn’t ideal for preserving the potential signs of ancient microscopic life Perseverance is searching for, because of how it forms. On the other hand, determining the age of sedimentary rock can be challenging, especially when it contains rock fragments that formed at different times before the rock sediment was deposited. However, sedimentary rock often forms in watery environments suitable for life and is better at preserving ancient signs of life. That’s why the sediment-rich river delta Perseverance has been exploring since April 2022 is so tantalizing to scientists. The rover has begun drilling and collecting core samples of sedimentary rocks there so that the Mars Sample Return campaign could potentially return them to Earth where they could be studied by powerful lab equipment too large to bring to Mars In addition, SuperCam used near-infrared light – it’s the first instrument on Mars with that capability – to find that water-altered minerals in the crater floor rocks. However, the alterations weren’t pervasive throughout the crater floor, according to the combination of laser and infrared observations.
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