NASA's Perseverance rover has been on a mission to explore the Red Planet since it landed in February 2021. And just over a year later, the rover has already made some significant discoveries.
The latest findings from Perseverance suggest that ancient rivers on Mars may have been deeper and faster than previously thought.
What Do The Images Show?
The rover's Mastcam-Z instrument captured hundreds of images that were pieced together to create a composite image of a geological structure within the "curvilinear unit" of the Jezero crater. The area is believed to have once contained a network of waterways that flowed into a large lake. This lake is where Perseverance is currently exploring.
The composite image shows a series of ripples that are believed to have been created by water. These ripples were observed on a geological structure known as "Shrinkle Haven," which is part of the curvilinear unit.
The ripples were also seen in another composite image taken about a quarter mile away from "Shrinkle Haven" that shows a hill called "Pinestand" along with a series of ripples in the foreground.
Scientists believe that the ripples were formed by water, but there is still uncertainty over how substantial the water flow was. However, the new findings suggest that the rivers may have been deeper and faster than previously thought.
"The more powerful flow of water, the more easily it's able to move larger pieces of material," said Libby Ives, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which operates the Perseverance rover.
The ripples in the image are also believed to have been worn down by wind over millions of years. "The wind has acted like a scalpel that has cut the tops off these deposits," said Michael Lamb, a river specialist who works with the Perseverance science team.
The composite image provides a close-up view of the "curvilinear unit" that was previously observed from orbit. The rover has given researchers an opportunity to study the area more closely and collect valuable data about the Martian environment.
In addition to observing geographical formations on the surface of Mars, Perseverance is equipped with a ground-penetrating radar system, the Rader Imager for Mars' Subsurface Experiment, that can observe geographical formations below the planet's surface.
The rover is also carrying a suite of scientific instruments, including cameras, spectrometers, and a laser to study the rocks and soil in the Jezero crater.
Future NASA missions will collect samples that have been gathered by Perseverance and return them to Earth. The samples will be analyzed by scientists to learn more about the history and geology of Mars.
The new findings from Perseverance suggest that Mars may have had a more dynamic environment in the past than previously thought, with rivers that were deeper and faster than expected. The rover's mission to explore the Red Planet is far from over, and there are sure to be more discoveries and surprises in store.