New NASA Mars Photos Show Rocks That Were Once Under Liquid Water on Planet

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover has released photos of Martian rocks that are thought to have once been under liquid water.

The rover took the photos on August 10, its 168th Martian day. One shows a collection of rocks that appear to have been sharply eroded.

The images were taken using the Mastcam-Z cameras aboard Perseverance, located high on the rover's mast.

When the photos were taken, the rover was situated in a place known as South Séítah, inside the Jezero Crater.

The crater is where Perseverance first landed earlier this year, and the spot was chosen by scientists because they believe it was once flooded with water billions of years ago.

Rocks on Mars
This photo, taken August 10, shows a number of rocks that were photographed in the Jezero Crater. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU
Mars rocks
This photo shows a sharply-eroded rock on the right. Scientists think the Jezero Crater once had a lake in it. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

"This area was under at least 100 meters [328 feet] of water 3.8 billion years ago," said Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a statement in June. "We don't know what stories the rocks and layered outcrops will tell us, but we're excited to get started."

Evidence of water on the Red Planet includes the detection of clays in the Jezero Crater, which only form when there is liquid water.

In addition, photos of the crater from above show that there was once an ancient river delta leading into it.

Microbial Life?

Conceivably, the Jezero Crater could have been home to microbial life during this wet period of Mars' history.

If this microbial life did exist, NASA thinks the crater is a good place to look for it because there may be telltale signs left behind.

The agency has previously called the site "a great place to fulfill the Mars 2020 mission's science goal of studying a potentially habitable environment that may still preserve signs of past life."

Jezero Crater is around 28 miles wide and is located on the edge of a flat plain, just north of the planet's equator.

Perseverance is currently in the middle of a science campaign that has taken it south of its initial landing site to observe sites of scientific interest, such as South Séítah.

In the coming months, the rover will return to its landing site and then head northwest on a second science campaign to Jezero's delta region, the fan-shaped remains of where an ancient river met the Jezero Crater lake.

The Perseverance rover landed on Mars in February this year on a mission to further investigate the Red Planet and its past. It succeeds the Curiosity rover which landed in August 2012 and continues to work today.