Perseverance found a weird rock on Mars and it’s puzzling scientists

Nasa’s Perseverance rover has made an interesting discovery (Nasa)

Nasa’s Perseverance rover has made a strange discovery on the surface of Mars.

The rover’s official Twitter account published an image of a weird, pockmarked rock. It has a smooth, greenish appearance and the caption underneath confirms that scientists are stumped.

Perseverance zapped the rock with its on-board laser and is trying to learn more about it.

‘While the helicopter is getting ready, I can’t help checking out nearby rocks,’ the rover tweeted in the first person.

‘This odd one has my science team trading lots of hypotheses.

‘It’s about 6 inches (15 cm) long. If you look closely, you might spot the row of laser marks where I zapped it to learn more.’

The smoothness of the rock suggests it could have been worn down by the water that once ran on Mars’ surface. Alternatively, it could be a fragment of a meteor that rained down on the red planet eons ago.

Your guess is as good as ours.

The rock was snapped by Perseverance’s on-board ‘SuperCam’, a high resolution camera equipped with a laser and spectrometers to seek organic compounds that could be related to past life on Mars.

What made it look like this? (Credits: Ella Millward)

It can identify the chemical and mineral makeup of targets as small as a pencil point from a distance of more than 20 feet (7 meters). If you look closely at the picture, you can see the tiny indentations on the right side of the rock where the rover’s laser hit it.

What is Perseverance doing on Mars?

This image shows the seven seven primary instruments for acquiring information about Martian geology, atmosphere, environmental conditions and potential signs of life (Nasa)

The Mars 2020 mission is the first mission with the explicit aim of finding evidence that life once existed there.

Over the course of several years, Perseverance will collect and store up to 30 rock and soil samples that will eventually be returned to Earth where labs will analyze them.

Its top speed is 152 meters per hour (about 0.1 miles per hour) – sluggish by Earth standards but faster than any of its predecessors, as it traverses first the delta, then the ancient lake shore, and finally the edges of the crater.

The rover could return the samples as part of a planned joint mission between Nasa and the European Space Agency in the 2030s.

‘The scientists who will analyze these samples are in school today, they might not even be born yet,’ said Ken Farley, a Nasa scientist.

What would these long awaited signs of life look like? ‘We should not be looking for fossil teeth or fossil bones or fossil leaves,’ Farley said.

Rather, it’s hunting for organic molecules and other signs of past microbial life, a discovery that would be ‘fabulous.’

The first months of the mission won’t however be devoted to this primary objective. Parallel experiments are also planned.

Nasa notably wants to fly, for the first time, a powered aircraft on another planet. The helicopter, dubbed Ingenuity, must be able to ascend in an atmosphere just one percent the density of Earth’s.

Another goal is to help pave the way for future human missions, by developing a system that can convert oxygen from Mars’ primarily carbon dioxide atmosphere, much like a plant.

The space agency is deploying an instrument called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), using a process called electrolysis to produce about 10 grams of oxygen an hour.

MORE : Nasa’s Perseverance rover readies Ingenuity helicopter for Mars flight

MORE : Nasa’s dramatic Mars landing video shows Perseverance POV during descent

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