NASA’s rover and China’s Zhurong rover have found signs of wet sand dunes and flowing rivers on the Red Planet. The rover in China found evidence that frost may have cemented the dunes together 400,000 years ago. NASA’s Perseverance has found signs that a fast, powerful waterway has forced its way into Jezero Crater, spewing water at an impressive rate, according to National Geographic a report.
The results are published in Science advances. Zhurong which landed on Mars in May 2021 after failing to wake up after a planned hibernation period, likely due to dust buildup on its solar panels.
NASA’s Perseverance has found the largest river ever seen on Mars. The river was more than 66 feet deep in places based on the height of the rock formations. Scientists believe that these are the preserved sand columns.
Both findings “highlight the fact that it’s really important to put things on the surface of other planets,” said Janie Radebo, a researcher at Brigham Young University in Utah.
The Chinese rover has discovered signs of water on Mars. The dunes near the rover have developed a crust that likely formed as a result of the interaction of water with minerals. This water may have come from frost that formed on the dunes in the past, or it may have fallen as snow hundreds of thousands of years ago when the planet’s tilt would have allowed snow to fall in this area, according to the Nat Geo report.
Crusts refer to polygonal features that contract and expand over time. “To have this kind of shrinkage and expansion feature indicates that there is relatively recent, recent or ongoing wetting and drying occurring in the dune regions.
Ralph Milliken, a planetary scientist at Brown University and a member of NASA’s Mars Curiosity mission, told Nat Geo that Martian dust is rich in minerals that can absorb water vapor from the air. If this material covers the dunes, the humidity changes during the season can cause the dust to absorb water vapor and release it again without ever becoming a liquid.
“These are likely things that form in many different places on Mars,” says Milliken. “This may be a process that could have occurred over a large part of the planet in the recent geological past.”
While the Chinese rover investigated a dune soak, Perseverance explored the remnants of a powerful torrent.
NASA’s rover has shown evidence that ancient rivers that once flowed above the planet were much deeper, and flowed much faster than researchers previously thought. The river was part of a network of waterways flowing into Jezero Crater. Notably, this is the area the rover has been exploring since it touched down more than two years ago in hopes of eventually looking for signs of ancient microbial life.
“These refer to a high-energy river that goes into a truck” and carries a lot of debris. The stronger the water flow, the easier it is to move larger pieces of material. “It’s been a joy to look at rocks on another planet and see very familiar processes,” Libby Ives, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in the NASA release.
For two years, Perseverance has been examining the top of a 820-foot-high (250-meter) mound of sedimentary rock that features curved layers that suggest flowing water. One location within the curved module, dubbed “Sprinkle Haven,” was captured in one of the new Mastcam-Z mosaics.
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