NASA Perseverance rover discovers ‘Popcorn’ like boulders on Mars

These rocks are marked by sharp ridges similar to the mineral veins found at the base of the fan, but they appear more abundant at the base of this outcrop on Sol 1175

NASA’s Perseverance rover has made a groundbreaking NASA discovery in the Jezero crater on Mars, potentially offering scientists new insights into the possibility of ancient life on the planet. While exploring Neretva Vallis, an ancient river channel leading into the Jezero crater on Mars, the Perseverance rover discovered a striking light-colored boulder that stood out among the surrounding dark rocks.

According to the report published by NASA, after completing a survey of the intriguing and varied boulders at ‘Mount Washburn,’ the rover headed north, stopping in front of an exposure of layered, light-toned rock. This location offered the team their first close-up view of the rocks comprising the ‘Bright Angel’ exposure. Perseverance paused to capture images before driving west to a larger and more accessible outcrop, where it will carry out detailed exploration.

Image Source:

Perseverance arrived at the base of this outcrop on Sol 1175, captivating geologists on the science team with the unusual textures of the light-colored rocks. These rocks are marked by sharp ridges similar to the mineral veins found at the base of the fan, but they appear more abundant here. Additionally, some rocks are densely packed with small spheres, which the team humorously described as having a “popcorn”-like texture.

These features collectively indicate that groundwater flowed through the rocks after their formation. Perseverance will next gradually ascend the rock exposure, taking measurements along the way. Over the weekend, the rover’s abrasion tool will be employed to conduct a close-up examination and gather detailed chemical information using the instruments on its arm. Based on this data, the team will decide whether to collect a sample. Once the exploration at ‘Bright Angel’ is complete, the rover will head south across Neretva Vallis to investigate a site known as ‘Serpentine Rapids’.

Katie Stack Morgan, the deputy project scientist for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, stated, “Every once in a while, you’ll just see some strange thing in the Martian landscape, and the team is like, ‘Oh, let’s go over there. This was like the textbook definition of [chasing] the bright, shiny thing because it was so bright and white.”

The boulder, nicknamed ‘Atoco Point,’ measured approximately 18 inches across and 14 inches tall. It was speckled and distinctly light-toned, standing out among a field of darker boulders on the ‘Mount Washburn’ hill. Later, a detailed analysis of the rock with the rover’s instruments indicated that it was likely an anorthosite, a type of rock typically found on the moon and in some of Earth’s mountain ranges. 

Before the survey, this type of rock was not identified on the surface of Mars. NASA claims that one of the boulders at the site contains the minerals pyroxene and feldspar, while some researchers speculate that it could be a fragment of magma below the surface of Mars exposed on the rim for erosion by the Jezero crater.

“The diversity of textures and compositions at Mount Washburn was an exciting discovery for the team, as these rocks represent a grab bag of geologic gifts brought down from the crater rim and potentially beyond,” stated Brad Garczynski of Western Washington University, co-leader of the current Perseverance mission.

Some scientists suggested the boulder must have originated from a different location on Mars, but it might have been brought there by the old river channel and deposited on Washburn Hill, thus seeming out of place. According to NASA, all the scientists at Perseverance believe that more rocks of the same composition can be found elsewhere on Mars. This discovery opens a lot of possibilities for modern-day researchers. Scientists are hopeful that understanding the composition and history of Mars could provide insights into whether the planet could support human habitation in the future. Additionally, this knowledge could provide valuable information about the origins and development of life on Earth.

You might also be interested in – NASA Admin Bill Nelson believes there are trillion Earth-like planets out there

Related Articles

Back to top button