NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has fed us with several discoveries from the red planet, ever since it landed on it in February this year. After nearly 10 months of driving around the Jezero crater, scientists are beginning to understand that the region had been formed by red-hot magma, possibly from a long dormant volcano from Mars. NASA scientists believe that this discovery will lead to a better understanding of the planet’s history. In a report, NASA revealed that the crater rocks appear to have interacted with water several times since launch. Some organic molecules are also present in these rocks.
NASAs the research team had wondered about the origin of these rocks, even before Perseverance had landed on March. Scientists wonder if the rocks were sedimentary or magmatic in nature. Now they seem to be closer to their answer.
It announced the US space agency through a tweet. The post read: “The bedrock of Mars’ Jezero crater, which NASA Persevere has been rolling over for nearly 10 months, appears to be formed by red-hot magma – possibly from a long-sleeping volcano from Mars.”
Persistence project researcher Ken Farley from Caltech in Pasadena said, “I began to despair, we would never find the answer.” He added: “But then our PIXL instrument got a good look at the worn part of a rock from the area nicknamed ‘South Séítah’, and it all became clear: the crystals in the rock delivered the smoking gun.”
The Perseverance rover’s robot arm is equipped with a drill that can grind a few centimeters into cutting surfaces to test their composition. The robot’s Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) then uses X-ray fluorescence to map the elemental composition of the drilled rocks.
Last month, the rover received a core sample from a rock in the southern Séítah region. The PIXL data revealed that the rock was unusually rich in large olivine crystals engulfed in pyroxene crystals.
Farley explained: “Such a texture indicates the rock formed when crystals grew and settled in a slowly cooling magma – for example, a thick lava flow, lava lake or magma chamber.” Scientists have yet to determine whether the rocks were formed by surface cooling of lava or in an underground chamber that was later exposed to erosion.