The Perseverance rover has captured thousands of incredible images since arriving on Mars in February 2021, but none of them are as detailed as its latest panorama. The latter, recently released by the mission team, presents us with a combination of individual images stitched together to create a landscape of billions of pixels.
The incredible image was captured in the ancient Jezero Crater Delta, where the Perseverance rover is searching for signs of past life. The latter was dug about 3.5 billion years ago by a river flowing into the crater.
The rover captured this new view using its Mastcam-Z camera system. The images were taken on June 12, 13, 16 and 17 during the rover’s initial exploration of the delta. Not less than 1,118 individual images were then assembled to form a mosaic of 2.5 billion pixels with enhanced colors. It is the most detailed panorama ever taken on another planet. And he’s gorgeous.
As you can see below, the rover’s tracks are visible to the right of the image, while a rocky cliff ten meters high rises in front of it. These rocks have been in place for billions of years, enduring wind erosion to slowly assume their jagged shapes.
The video below offers a guided tour of the new panorama. View the full resolution image here.
Researchers believe these fine-grained rocks could harbor traces of ancient life. As part of its scientific operations in the region, Perseverance has already collected four samples since July 7, bringing the total number of scientifically convincing rock samples to twelve. The rover also has three other sample tubes already sealed. One contains a bit of Martian atmosphere, while the other two are just “witness tubes.”
According to the mission team, these last four samples would also be loaded with organic moleculeswhich is very promising.
As a reminder, organic molecules are made up of a wide variety of compounds consisting mainly of carbon and generally include hydrogen and oxygen atoms. They may also contain other elements. Although there are non-life processes capable of producing them, some of these compounds remain basic chemical building blocks of life. The presence of these specific molecules is thus considered as a potential biosignature. The analysis of these samples, once returned to Earth in the early 2030s, should tell us more.