NASA’s Perseverance rover has been on Mars 100 days. Its best photos show mysterious rocks, false rainbows, and helicopter flights.

NASA Perseverance
Perseverance took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter on April 6, 2021.

As of Tuesday, NASA’s Perseverance rover has spent 100 days on the red planet.

perservance camera selfie
Perseverance photographed its own cameras.

It landed in Mars’ Jezero Crater on February 18. If life ever existed on the planet, this ancient lake bed may hold fossils of ancient alien microbes.

Perseverance Rover
NASA’s Perseverance rover descends to touch down on Mars, February 18, 2021.

Cameras aboard the rover and on the jetpack that lowered it to the Martian surface captured the first-ever video footage of a Mars landing.

Since then, Perseverance has built up a library of stunning photos.

perseverance mars rover landing jetpack
Perseverance photographed the jetpack above that lowered the rover to the Martian surface, February 18, 2021.

NASA has been sharing new images from the rover almost every day, as Perseverance beams them back to Earth.

The rover began to photograph its surroundings shortly after landing, capturing Jezero Crater’s cliffs, boulder fields, and sand dunes.

jezero crater rim perseverance mars rover mastcam z panorama
The rim of Jezero Crater as seen in the first 360-degree panorama taken by the Mastcam-Z instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover.

The rover is equipped with 23 cameras. Some help it navigate Martian terrain by spotting potential hazards like large rocks or trenches. Others allow human operators on Earth to check that the rover’s parts are in good shape.

The Perseverance team stitched together 142 images that Perseverance captured to create a panorama of the area.

perseverance mars rover panorama high definition 360 degrees smaller size
The first 360-degree panorama taken by Mastcam-Z, made up of images captured during Perseverance’s third day on Mars.

Within a month, the rover spotted its first dust devil.

 

Mars doesn’t have rainbows, but Perseverance captured a lens flare that looked like one.

Mars Rainbow
A Perseverance photo from April featured a lens flare that looked like a Martian rainbow.

“Rainbows aren’t possible here,” NASA tweeted from its Perseverance account. “Rainbows are created by light reflected off of round water droplets, but there isn’t enough water here to condense, and it’s too cold for liquid water in the atmosphere. This arc is a lens flare.”

To test its laser tool, the rover zapped a nearby rock and photographed the line of dots it left on the surface.

perseverance rover laser zaps rock skitch
Perseverance photographed the line of dots its laser left on a rock that it zapped in March 2021.

Perseverance uses a laser to vaporize the dust on rocks in order to study the minerals inside.

Perseverance even spotted its own shadow.

perseverance rover shadow on mars rocks
A hazard-avoidance camera captured Perseverance’s shadow falling on Martian rocks on May 25, 2021.

The rover’s cameras have also documented the Ingenuity helicopter’s journey, starting from its descent from the rover’s belly onto the Martian surface.

Ingenuity helicopter unfolds below perseverance rover
Perseverance dropped its belly pan (left) to reveal the Ingenuity helicopter and allow it to unfold (right).

The helicopter is a technology demonstration — NASA engineers wanted to see if they could fly it in the thin Martian atmosphere. Because it has just 1% the density of Earth’s atmosphere, that’s the Earth equivalent of flying at three times the height of Mount Everest.

After Ingenuity emerged, Perseverance looked back as it backed away, leaving the 4-pound drone to survive its first frigid Martian night alone.

Mars ingenuity helicopter nasa perseverance rover
The Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, sitting where the Perseverance rover dropped it, April 5, 2021.

Nighttime temperatures on Mars can plunge as low as negative 130 degrees Fahrenheit, but Ingenuity’s insulation and heaters have kept it warm enough to survive.

Perseverance took an impressive selfie with Ingenuity before driving to the overlook from which it would later watch the helicopter fly.

Perseverance selfie
Perseverance took a selfie with Ingenuity on April 6, 2021.

The selfie is actually a mosaic of 62 individual images.

When Ingenuity lifted itself from the red dust for the first time and made history, Perseverance was watching.

ingenuity second flight mars helicopter
The Perseverance rover captured Ingenuity in mid-air during its second flight on April 22, 2021.

These were the first controlled, powered flights ever conducted on another planet.

The rover captured full video of the helicopter’s first flights, too.

Ingenuity performed so well during its first three flights that NASA gave it an extended mission. Now it’s flying to new airfields and scouting uncharted territory — testing out tasks that NASA hopes to accomplish with future Mars helicopters. 

Now that Ingenuity’s initial flights are done, Perseverance has begun its primary science mission.

mars santa cruz mountain nasa perseverance rover
The Mastcam-Z imager capture this image of “Santa Cruz,” a hill about 1.5 miles away from Perseverance, on April 29, 2021.

The rover’s main goal is to collect samples of Martian rock that could contain hints of ancient microbial life on Mars. It will cache these samples for a future NASA mission to bring back to Earth.

The rover’s zooming cameras have begun studying mysterious rocks, starting with the “zoom test” pictured below.

When NASA scientists saw that Perseverance’s landing site was surrounded by these kinds of rocks, they changed the rover’s plans to stay in the area a few weeks longer. They want to learn whether these are volcanic rocks, or the kind that come from river sediment. Sticking around also allowed Ingenuity to continue flying.

Once it’s done studying those rocks, Perseverance is set to drive towards the cliffs of the river delta that once fed Lake Jezero.

jezero crater river delta remnant perseverance rover mars
A remnant of the Jezero river delta rises against the cliffs of the crater, as photographed by Perseverance on February 22, 2021.

There, scientists expect to find soil and rock rich with ancient river deposits of mud and clay — and perhaps fossils of microbes trapped inside them.

Aria Bendix contributed reporting.

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