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What’s in a Vein?
Mars Perseverance Sol 612 - WATSON Camera: The Perseverance rover used a specialty drill bit to scour into the bedrock, revealing a network of stringy white veins hidden inside the rock. The Perseverance rover acquired this image using its SHERLOC WATSON camera, located on the turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm on November 9th (sol 612). Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›

After scraping away the top few layers of stone using its abrading bit, the Perseverance rover has revealed a network of thin, white veins. Could these hold clues about ancient life?

Geological veins are mineral deposits that form when a pre-existing fracture within a rock is filled with a new mineral. They are exciting to planetary scientists because they often provide evidence of past water flow.

For example, many rocks are naturally porous. Gravity pulls water at the surface into these pores, where it then circulates through subterranean fractures and fissures, just like blood circulating in our veins. As the water circulates, it dissolves soluble minerals exposed along the fractures — minerals like rock salt (halite), quartz, carbonates, and sulfates. These dissolved minerals are carried by the fluid, sometimes great distances, before eventually re-solidifying, perhaps along the crack walls (like hard-water deposits forming on the inside of pipes) or in larger void spaces.

The veins discovered by Perseverance at its most recent workspace, an outcrop called Hidden Harbor, were found within a fractured sedimentary rock that itself probably formed in an ancient lake. This was an exciting find because the veins are strikingly different than the sedimentary rock surrounding them, suggesting that they formed at a different time and under different conditions. This single slab of rock has preserved evidence of at least two different episodes of water activity on Mars: the first episode hardened (or “cemented”) the lake sediments into sedimentary rock, the second formed the mineral veins within the rock’s fractures.

By studying the minerals in the surrounding rock, as well as those inside the veins, researchers may be able to reconstruct what these different ancient wet environments looked like and whether they were suitable for life. It is even possible that, during crystallization, the minerals in the veins trapped a droplet or two of the ancient water that carried them through the network of fractures in the first place, providing a time capsule of Mars’ watery past. These trapped droplets are called “fluid inclusions” and are sometimes found in mineralized veins on Earth. What’s more, some fluid inclusions on Earth contain organic matter or microfossils, preserved for hundreds of millions of years.

Do the veins in Jezero contain such fluid inclusions? No evidence of liquid water has been detected. But it’s possible and we cannot know for certain until we bring a sample back to Earth for detailed analysis. That’s why we commanded the rover to sample the veined rocks at Hidden Harbor so that we could add this compelling rock to our sample collection.



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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Contributors+

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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:


CAMERAS & SPECTROMETERS
GROUND-PENETRATING RADAR
ENVIRONMENTAL SENSORS
TECHNOLOGY DEMO
SAMPLE COLLECTION

Where is the Rover?

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

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