What's up with this weird green rock on Mars? Perseverance rover is trying to find out.

Perseverance's laser hasn't yet penetrated the mystery of a strange Martian rock near the rover's new digs.

NASA's rover is waiting for its companion, the Ingenuity helicopter, to make the first-ever powered flight on another planet. Meanwhile, its instruments targeted a greenish-looking rock on the Red Planet's surface that has the science team "trading lots of hypotheses," according to the rover's Twitter feed — but please don't pick aliens as one of them.

"Is it something weathered out of the local bedrock?," a tweet the account posted on Wednesday (March 31) wondered. "Is it a piece of Mars plopped into the area from a far-flung impact event? Is it a meteorite? Or something else?"

Video: Perseverance lasers odd rock and new Mars panorama in latest pics
Where to find the latest Mars photos from NASA's Perseverance rover

The Perseverance rover used its SuperCam laser to study this strange green rock on Mars. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

"It's about 6 inches (15 cm) long," added the tweet. "If you look closely, you might spot the row of laser marks where I zapped it to learn more."

The laser is part of the rock-zapping SuperCam instrument. Scientists hope that over time, the laser will give us more information about the strange rock's composition, which could tell scientists whether it formed in place or was transported there by some process. If it didn't form at its current location, water may have carried it to Jezero Crater or it could be a meteorite like the one that the Curiosity rover spotted in 2014.

Perseverance is the centerpiece of NASA's $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission. The car-sized rover started its work on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, exploring Jezero Crater for signs of ancient life. The crater used to have a deep lake and a river delta, providing plenty of interesting environments for Perseverance to explore. The rover will then cache the most promising samples for a possible sample-return mission later in the decade.

Perseverance has seven science instruments on board. SuperCam sits on top of the mast of Perseverance and can send laser shots to target rocks as far as 23 feet (7 meters) from the rover. Each laser beam creates a cloud of vaporized rock, the composition of which can be analyzed by SuperCam's cameras and spectrometers. 

SuperCam's first activity on Mars was on March 2, when it fired on a target called Máaz, the Navajo word for Mars. The Perseverance team informally dubbed its region of Jezero the Canyon de Chelly, after a national monument on Navajo land in northeastern Arizona, and the Navajo Nation is working in consultation with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to select appropriate names to use on Mars.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace