NASA’s “Perseverance” rover is discovering a mystery on the surface of Mars that researchers have been obsessing with for some time. One of the discoveries is reminiscent of one made by Curiosity.
FRANKFURT/PASADENA – Shortly after its arrival on Mars in February 2021, NASA’s “Perseverance” rover has sent researchers data back to Earth, which clarified a big question about Mars: Was Jezero crater in which the probe was located, once Lake? The researchers’ answer was: Yes. “This is the main observation that confirms once and for all that there was a lake and river delta in Jezero crater,” said scientist Nicholas Mangold in a report from NASA. The US space agency is now publishing the next surprise that the rover has discovered on Mars.
Again, a few months after its landing on Mars, the “Perseverance” probe answered a question that has long worried researchers: are the stones in the landing zone of sedimentary origin, for example, were flowing waters involved in their formation, or are they of nature Volcanic and created in lava flows?
“I started to despair and thought we’d never find the answer,” NASA quoted Project Perseverance scientist Ken Farley of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena as saying. “But then our PIXL instrument had a pretty good view of the eroded portion of the rock and everything became clear: the crystals inside are the ultimate proof.”
NASA: “Perseverance” spacecraft clarifies a question that has pushed researchers to despair
The finding of the NASA research team, which is evaluating data from NASA’s latest rover: It is very likely that the subsurface layer on which Perseverance has stood and ride since its landing on Mars was formed in hot magma. The PIXL instrument of the Mars rover “Perseverance” during the analysis of the stone showed that the stone, which the researchers nicknamed “Brac”, consists of an extraordinary abundance of large olivine crystals surrounded by pyrox crystals.
“A good student of geology will tell you that such texture indicates that rocks formed, grew into crystals and settled in cold, cold magma—for example, a thick lava flow, a lava lake, or a magma chamber,” Farley explains. Then the stone was changed several times with water.
“It has become a treasure chest that will enable future researchers to date events in Jezero crater,” Farley says. The researcher also suspects that this will help to better understand a time when water was not uncommon on the surface of Jezero crater and reveal the early history of Mars. It remains unclear whether the rocks examined cooled in a lava lake at the surface or in an underground chamber that later surfaced through erosion.
The future mission is to transport Martian rocks to Earth
The “Persevering” Mars rover has packed a piece of rock into a container that will be returned to Earth on a future mission. Then scientists on Earth could use instruments for their research that are too big to be flown to Mars. NASA’s rover is supposed to fill a total of 43 small containers with soil samples from Mars, six of which are already filled and sealed. This contains, among other things, the Martian material for which the rover was dug, as well as a sample of the Martian atmosphere.
NASA: “Perseverance” spacecraft has discovered organic compounds
Another instrument of the “Persevering” Mars rover also provided research on Earth with new data: Sherlock discovered organic compounds. This does not automatically mean that life was present in Jezero crater, NASA confirms in a press release. There are biological and non-biological mechanisms by which organic compounds are formed, and NASA’s Curiosity spacecraft has discovered organic materials at its landing site in Gale Crater.
“What Sherlock adds to the story is the ability to map the spatial distribution of organic matter in the stones and relate them to the minerals found there,” explains Sherlock researcher Luther Beagle of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In this way, research can better understand the environment in which the organic compounds were formed.
The fact that organic compounds were found in the stones in the Jezero and Gale craters means that potential biosignatures – that is, signs of past or present life – have also been preserved. “It’s a question that probably won’t be resolved until samples are brought to Earth, but getting organic compounds is very exciting,” Beagle says. “When these Martian samples reach Earth, they will be a source of scientific research for many years.” (tab)
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