Searching for Frost at Jezero Crater

Mars Perseverance Sol 546 - SuperCam Camera: This SuperCam Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) image shows the Red Mountain target, which was analyzed on September 2nd (sol 546) as part of a campaign to detect frost at Jezero Crater. The small ‘pits’ seen in the center of the image were created by LIBS laser shots. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP. Download image ›

We’ve all walked outside on a cold morning and seen frost on the grass, but you might be surprised to know that frost can also form on Mars! Several missions have searched for frost including Opportunity and most recently Curiosity with its REMS and ChemCam instruments. This week, Perseverance followed in its siblings’ footsteps by searching for frost at Jezero Crater using its MEDA and SuperCam instruments. The presence of frost could have important implications for our study of the geology and water cycle of Jezero Crater and Mars as a whole.

Frost forms when the ground temperature gets below the frost point. The frost point is the temperature below which water vapor in the air can turn directly into solid ice on the ground. The frost point changes based on the humidity of the air. Perseverance’s Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) instrument collects temperature and humidity data, allowing us to predict which sols have the best conditions for frost formation. Once conditions permit frost formation, SuperCam steps in.  

SuperCam utilizes several remote-sensing techniques to study the geology of nearby rocks. We use two techniques to detect frost: Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and Raman spectroscopy. Both involve ‘zapping’ nearby rocks with a high-powered laser and analyzing the reflected light. LIBS uses a focused red (1064nm) laser which generates a tiny amount of hot plasma on the rock, while Raman uses a softer green (532nm) laser which merely stimulates the molecules on the surface of the rock. LIBS spectra reveal hints about the rock’s elemental composition while Raman spectra reveal hints about the rock’s mineralogical composition. In addition, a microphone records each LIBS shot to analyze the hardness of the rock at different depths.

Now is the perfect time to search for frost since it’s the peak of winter at Jezero Crater. Last week I helped plan our first SuperCam frost detection activity which consisted of two observations on a nearby soil target. The first, named Red Mountain, occurred in the afternoon of sol 546 (September 2nd) when frost wasn’t expected. The second, named Snowy Mountain, occurred at dawn on sol 548 (September 4th) when conditions could foster frost formation. If frost exists on the Snowy Mountain target, we should detect hydrogen in the LIBS spectra and O-H bonds in the Raman spectra in greater quantities than in the Red Mountain spectra. We’re also listening for a soft acoustic signal in the first LIBS shot of Snowy Mountain which could indicate a frost layer as thin as ~10 microns.

I’m excited to see how our frost campaign shapes our understanding of Jezero Crater and beyond!

About This Blog

These blog updates are provided by self-selected Mars 2020 mission team members who love to share what Perseverance is doing with the public.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these blogs are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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  • Mariah Baker
    Planetary Scientist, Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
    Washington, DC
  • Matthew Brand
    SuperCam/ChemCam Engineer, Los Alamos National LaboratoryLos Alamos National Laboratory
  • Sawyer Brooks
    Docking Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Adrian Brown
    Deputy Program Scientist, NASA HQ
    Washington, DC
  • Denise Buckner
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Fred Calef III
    Mapping Specialist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Stephanie Connell
    SuperCam, PhD Student, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN
  • Alyssa Deardorff
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Kenneth Farley
    Project Scientist, Caltech
    Pasadena, CA
  • Phylindia Gant
    Mars 2020 Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Brad Garczynski
    Student Collaborator, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN
  • Erin Gibbons
    Student Collaborator, McGill University
    Montreal, Canada
  • Michael Hecht
    Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) Principal Investigator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Westford, MA
  • Louise Jandura
    Chief Engineer for Sampling & Caching, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Elisha Jhoti
    Ph.D. Student, University of California, Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, CA
  • Bavani Kathir
    Student Collaborator on Mastcam-Z, Western Washington University
  • Lydia Kivrak
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Athanasios Klidaras
    Ph.D. Student, Purdue University
  • Rachel Kronyak
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Steven Lee
    Perseverance Deputy Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • An Li
    Student Collaborator on PIXL, University of Washington
  • Justin Maki
    Imaging Scientist and Mastcam-Z Deputy Principal Investigator, NASA/JPL
  • Forrest Meyen
    MOXIE Science Team Member, Lunar Outpost
  • Sarah Milkovich
    Assistant Science Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Eleanor Moreland
    Ph.D. Student, Rice University
    Houston, Texas
  • Asier Munguira
    Ph.D. Student, University of the Basque Country
  • Matt Muszynski
    Vehicle Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Claire Newman
    Atmospheric Scientist, Aeolis Research
    Altadena, CA
  • Avi Okon
    Sampling Operations Deputy Lead, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Pegah Pashai
    Vehicle Systems Engineer Lead, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • David Pedersen
    Co-Investigator, PIXL Instrument, Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
    Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Eleni Ravanis
    Student Collaborator, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
    Honolulu, HI
  • Thirupathi Srinivasan
    Robotic Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
  • Kathryn Stack
    Deputy Project Scientist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Vivian Sun
    Science Operations Systems Engineer, Staff Scientist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Iona (Brockie) Tirona
    Sampling Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Jennifer Trosper
    Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Vandi Verma
    Chief Engineer for Robotic Operations, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Rick Welch
    Deputy Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Roger Wiens
    Principal Investigator, SuperCam / Co-Investigator, SHERLOC instrument, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN

Tools on the Perseverance Rover+

The Perseverance rover has tools to study the history of its landing site, seek signs of ancient life, collect rock and soil samples, and help prepare for human exploration of Mars. The rover carries:


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Image of a rover pin-point at Perseverance's location on Mars, Jezero Crater

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