NASA’s Perseverance rover has given us a twirl and created a beautiful 360° panorama of a Martian region known as Jezero Crater. It’s believed this vast basin was once flooded with water, making it a promising location to search for evidence of life.
The video is a mosaic of 993 individual images captured by Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z instrument over the course of three days in November 2023.
Editors have lightly touched up the image to increase contrast and exaggerate color differences, endowing the scene with Earth-like lighting conditions. In reality, Mars would appear darker and more reddish.
Perseverance successfully landed in the 45-kilometer (28-mile) wide Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021 alongside a plucky little buddy: an accompanying robotic helicopter called Ingenuity. The pair’s mission is to study the rocky Martian environment, scouring for signs of biosignatures that could potentially show that Mars once had conditions favorable to microbial life.
Jezero Crater is an especially promising site because scientists believe it was a 250-meter (820-foot) deep lake filled with organic material around 3.5 billion years ago. If extraterrestrial microbes ever lived on Mars, this would be an ideal place to look.
In December 2023, Perseverance celebrated its 1,000th Martian day of the mission – but the science is still coming in thick and fast.
Even within this latest 360° shot, it’s possible to dig out evidence of Mars’ turbulent past and its potential for microbial life.
“In this area, different rock layers record different parts of the crater’s history. The flat, light-colored rocks were deposited on the banks of a river flowing slowly across the landscape,” Ken Farley, a geochemist on the Perseverance project, said in the video’s accompanying audio.
“The boulders in the distance were deposited later, in what was likely a raging torrent. And if this peculiar outcrop caught your attention, it did ours as well. It doesn’t look like sediment at all – perhaps it's a remnant of a lava flow, now mostly eroded away,” explains Professor Farley.
Don't fret: Perseverance and Ingenuity aren't too lonely on the Red Planet. NASA's Curiosity Rover is also currently working away on Mars, albeit on another part of the planet called Mount Sharp. Just a few months ago, Curiosity captured a stunning 25-frame video showing the progress of a Martian day from dusk until dawn.