TechMars's Mysterious Whites: Perseverance Rover Uncovers Puzzling Pebbles

Mars's Mysterious Whites: Perseverance Rover Uncovers Puzzling Pebbles

Mars - overview photo
Mars - overview photo
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons

4:08 PM EDT, April 4, 2024

Scientists are delving into the mystery of large, unusual rocks discovered on Mars. The Perseverance rover, which has been exploring the Jezero crater since 2021, detected these rocks.

"These are very unusual rocks, and we're trying to figure out what's going on," says Candice Bedford of Purdue University, as quoted by Space.com. Bedford is also a member of the Mars 2020 scientific team. The rover has recently sent back images of over 4,000 bright rocks, each about the size of small pebbles.
Some rocks, referred to by scientists as "floats," appear smooth with etchings on their surfaces. Others seem to consist of many layers of different materials. Their analysis suggests that these rocks are dehydrated and lack minerals such as iron, calcium, sodium, and magnesium.

Thousands of White Rocks on Mars

The scientific team is particularly intrigued by the origin of the rocks found in the Jezero crater. This interest stems from the belief that further research on these "floats" could reveal vital information about Mars's past. Additionally, it might allow the team to pinpoint when water once flooded Jezero, which is now a dried-up region.

While the exact source of the white rocks remains unknown, scientists speculate these "floats" were altered by heat, possibly due to lava or asteroid impacts elsewhere on Mars, before settling at the crater's bottom. "Considering the geological history of the Jezero crater, the appearance of the white rocks seems to have occurred relatively recently," notes Bedford.

Bedford reveals that the Perseverance rover embarked on a new mission aiming for the crater's edge this spring. This will enable it to use long-range cameras to capture more images of the white rocks scattered throughout Jezero. However, the quest to unravel the mysteries of the Martian rocks goes beyond simple curiosity. The scientists are also eager to explore, seeking unique geological features at the crater's bottom that have yet to be discovered. This includes rocks predating the crater itself, which might hold insights into the formation of Mars's crust and its climate. Furthermore, there's a possibility that these undiscovered rocks could bear evidence of biosignatures, pointing to traces of past life.

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