NASA’s Perseverance rover has captured new images that provide potential evidence of a river system on Mars. These images suggest that the Martian river was more dynamic and powerful than previously thought. Scientists believe that studying these ancient watery environments could help in the search for signs of ancient microbial life preserved in Martian rocks.
Perseverance is currently exploring a unique sedimentary rock formation that rises 820 feet high. The rock layers show curves, indicating the presence of flowing water. Scientists are interested in determining whether the water flowed in shallow streams, similar to what Curiosity rover found in Gale Crater, or if it formed a more vigorous river system.
By analyzing mosaic images created from Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z instrument, scientists have observed coarse sediment grains and cobbles, suggesting a high-energy river capable of carrying large debris. This indicates a powerful flow of water. Libby Ives, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, compared these processes to familiar ones on Earth.
The rover’s detailed images have allowed scientists to closely examine the layers within the “curvilinear unit” in Jezero Crater. One location, named “Skrinkle Haven,” exhibits layers likely formed by the forceful flow of water. The arrangement of these layers resembles shifting river banks or sandbars.
Another mosaic captures a separate location called “Pinestand,” where tall layers curve upward. These unusually tall layers, reaching up to 66 feet, also suggest the presence of a powerful river.
Scientists are continuing their analysis of Mastcam-Z’s images and utilizing the ground-penetrating radar instrument, RIMFAX, to gather more insights into Mars’ ancient watery history. These discoveries mark a significant advancement in our understanding of the scale and nature of rivers on Mars.
Perseverance’s mission is to investigate Mars’ geological past and search for traces of ancient life, bringing us closer to unraveling the mysteries of the Red Planet.