New Mars Photos From NASA's Perseverance Rover Show Red Planet in Stunning Detail

Since successfully touching down on Mars on February 18, NASA's Mars Perseverance rover has already sent back some spectacular images of our planetary neighbor.

These include a set of images that NASA released last week, which show Mars in stunning detail. The spectacular color photos were captured on February 24 using the rover's Mastcam-Z camera system.

They show the arid landscape of the rover's landing site—the 28-mile-wide Jezero Crater. Researchers think this area was once home to a river delta billions of years ago, making it a promising spot to search for signs of ancient microbial life.

The Mastcam-Z consists of two cameras—the images taken on February 24 were captured by the one on the left-hand-side of the rover.

These cameras can zoom in, focus, and take 3D pictures and video at high speed, enabling the detailed examination of distant objects, according to NASA.

The main job of the camera system, which weighs nearly nine pounds in total, is to take images of the Martian surface and features in the red planet's thin atmosphere.

NASA Perseverance rover Mars image
NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its Left Mastcam-Z camera on Feb. 24, 2021. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Mastcam-Z is mounted on the mast of the rover at the eye level of a six-and-a-half-foot-tall person, with each camera separated by around 10 inches to provide 3D stereo vision.

Jim Bell, principal investigator for the rover's Mastcam-Z instruments, said in a statement prior to the mission's launch: "Mastcam-Z will be the main eyes of NASA's next Mars rover."

The system will allow scientists to zoom in on rocks, and help determine which ones might contain signs of ancient life. The rover can then collect these rocks and deposit them in special tubes in recorded locations on the surface. Future missions to Mars will hopefully be able to pick up these rock samples and return them to Earth for detailed analysis.

Mars image captured by NASA's Perseverance rover
Another image image captured by Perseverance's Left Mastcam-Z camera on Feb. 24, 2021. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Mastcam-Z can also help scientists to understand the Martian terrain, including rock and soil textures, while also identifying signs of ancient lakes, streams, and other water-related features.

The zoom of the system is so powerful that Mastcam-Z can see features as small as a house fly from a distance equivalent to the length of a soccer field, according to NASA.

The system is also capable of capturing 360-degree panoramas. In fact, Mastcam-Z has already snapped one spectacular panorama, composed of 142 individual images, which was taken on February 21.

NASA says Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover the space agency has ever sent to Mars, incorporating several advanced technologies. The rover is also carrying a unique technology experiment—a helicopter known as "Ingenuity"—that will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.

Mars panorama taken by Mars Perseverance rover
This is the first 360-degree panorama taken by Mastcam-Z. It was stitched together on Earth from 142 individual images taken on February 21, 2021.