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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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At The Delta
Hugh Bollinger

At The Delta

Frozen delta in Jezero Crater, Mars (credit: JPL/NASA/CalTech/Boston University)

The Perseverance rover on Mars has arrived at an important destination, the 'frozen' river delta in Jezero crater where it safely landed last year. So far, solidified delta may be one of the best places to explore for signs of past life the Red Planet. The Martian crater's delta formed where an ancient river once flowed into a lake and deposited sediments billions of years ago. Deltas form when flowing water encounters a standing body like an ocean or bay, causing any carried soil, rocks, and other materials to settle out. The structure continues growing as more and more material sinks. On Earth, deltas preserve evidence of organic materials, making the delta in Jezero crater a perfect location for the rover to investigate its composition and potential for fossil life. An oblique view of the Martian delta was made using multiple images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and aligned into a composite. The resolution is 6 meters/pixel and the large crater on the delta's fan has a diameter of roughly 1km. The extent to the 'frozen' delta's parameter is fully visible.

Oblique view, frozen delta in Jezero Crater, Mars (credit: JPL/NASA/CalTech/USGS)

According to NASA, rocks and sediments buried in the delta have been sitting in place for billions of years. Wind has eroded the surface into diverse forms with distinct characteristics. The rover's scientists believe these to contain some of the finest grained sedimentary rocks deposited by the once-flowing river. Fine grain rocks are often the best places to look for signs of ancient life. A drill carried on Perseverance will create clean abrasions so the rover's scientific instruments can analyze the rock's chemistry and mineralogy. Samples will also be gathered for a future retrieval mission.

A NASA video provides insight into what the Jet Propulsion Lab scientists hope to discover. WHB


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