The persistent rover, which spent months traveling to Mars, could not have landed at a more interesting location.
Jezero Crater – A piece of windswept dry Martian rock where the rover landed in February – Scientists say that it was once a lake bed fed by an ancient river with floods so powerful that they could move rocks.
These discoveries, It was published last week in Science, confirmed scientists’ suspicions that the crater contained a lake millions of years ago, and also indicates that this part of Mars had a hot, humid past with a more complex water cycle than previously known.
“There were great rivers here,” said Katie Stack Morgan, a Mars 2020 project scientist and author of the paper on the Jezero landscape about 3.5 million years ago. “Maybe Jezero was a good place to live and that environment has evolved over time.”
Additional studies could help researchers understand why the planet is drying up and provide new clues about whether the planet has life at all.
view from earth
A new perspective, thanks to the perseverance and geological investigative work of scientists, made these ideas possible.
The rover, which transmitted images of the surface of the crater to Earth, provided scientists with new views that cannot be seen from space.
“What you think you see from Mars’ orbit may not be what you see when you enter the crater at eye level,” Stack Morgan said.
Surface-level images supported the scientists’ theory that Jezero once contained a deep lake.
The images also gave the scientists, including the 39 authors of the science paper, the ability to analyze the layers of rock in an outcrop called the Kodiak. The researchers found that these layers were consistent with the way river deltas appeared on Earth, indicating the flow of water into the ancient lake.
But the appearance also contained some surprises. At other cliffs near Kodiak, scientists noticed large boulders, some up to five feet wide, formed by water in the upper layers of the formations, according to the Science article.
They suspect that the stones were deposited during flash floods, strong enough to quickly divert Martian watersheds.
They don’t know what caused these floods, but they speculated in the newspaper that torrential rain, rapid snow melt, or changes in glacial ice could have caused a violent flood.
“It can be very difficult to rebuild this kind of thing,” Stack Morgan said.
I’m looking for signs of life
Perseverance is the first exploration method that collects and stores Martian rock samples.
Stack Morgan said it’s exciting to know for sure that the rover will visit and experience an ancient lake fed by a river.
This means that the rover will have access to a variety of rock types that were deposited in the crater. The rover should also be able to reach and sample parts of ancient lake beds, he said, “exactly the kind of bed on Earth that’s ideal for organic matter and biosignatures.”
The rover may be in the right place to answer some of humanity’s deepest questions.
“That is why we came to Jezero with perseverance,” he said. “So far, Jezero has not disappointed.”
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