NASA’s Perseverance Rover has discovered that the bedrock the rover has been driving around since landing on Mars in February is actually made of red-hot magma. The discovery can help us understand and accurately date critical events in the history of Mars’ Jezero Crater, as well as the rest of the red planet.
Researches concluded that rocks in the crater have in fact had interaction with water multiple times over the eons and that they might even contain organic molecules. The findings presented by researchers have clarified the nature of the rocks to be igneous unlike before when scientists wondered if they were actually sedimentary.
The analysis of the rocks’ compositions revealed minerals that are generally produced by interactions between water and rock, as well as traces of two different salts that were probably left behind as salty water flowed through the cracks and pores in the volcanic rock.
The variety of minerals indicates that these rocks were probably underwater at least twice. These and other findings were presented today during a news briefing at the American Geophysical Union fall science meeting in New Orleans.
The drill at the end of Perseverance’s robotic arm can abrade, or grind, rock surfaces to allow other instruments, such as PIXL, to study them. Short for Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry, PIXL uses X-ray fluorescence to map the elemental composition of rocks.
On Nov. 12, PIXL analyzed a South Séítah rock the science team had chosen to take a core sample from using the rover’s drill. The PIXL data showed the rock, nicknamed “Brac,” to be composed of an unusual abundance of large olivine crystals engulfed in pyroxene crystals, reported NASA.
Still to be determined is whether the olivine-rich rock formed in a thick lava lake cooling on the surface or in a subterranean chamber that was later exposed by erosion.
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