On the scene. NASA’s new robotic Mars explorer, the Perseverance rover.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has solved a big unknown after landing within Jezero crater – the crater was definitely a lake.

Two of Perseverance’s cameras, Mastcam-Z and the SuperCam Remote Micro-Imager (RMI), have relayed images of their surroundings, including long-distance photos of the outcrop’s edge and a formation known as Kodiak butte.

High resolution looks at the imagery has researchers observing distinct beds of sediment along Kodiak butte.

The rover also relayed to Earth similar photos of tilted sediment beds along the main outcrop. That imagery, together with those of Kodiak, confirm that the fan-shaped formation was indeed an ancient delta and that this delta fed into an ancient Martian lake.

Inferred paleolake level inside Jezero crater at the time of Kodiak sediment deposition.
Credit: Nicolas Mangold, et al.

New analysis

The new analysis, published this week in the journal Science, bolsters the chance of detecting fossils and sampling for signs of life at Jezero Crater. This rover search site offers “high potential to preserve organic matter or potential biosignatures,” the Science paper notes.

The new research paper, written by over 30 scientists, was led by Nicolas Mangold of the Laboratoire Planétologie et Géodynamique in France.

“Kodiak” butte as viewed from Perseverance rover.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The most surprising thing that’s come out of these images is the potential opportunity to catch the time when this crater transitioned from an Earth-like habitable environment, to this desolate landscape wasteland we see now,” says Benjamin Weiss, professor of planetary sciences in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and a member of the analysis team. “These boulder beds may be records of this transition, and we haven’t seen this in other places on Mars,” he stated in an MIT press statement.

To access the research paper — “Perseverance rover reveals an ancient delta-lake system and flood deposits at Jezero crater, Mars” – go to:

https://www.science.org/doi/epdf/10.1126/science.abl4051

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