Experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) examined the latest batch of images taken by NASA's Perseverance rover on the inside of the Jezero crater. They found that the crater was an ancient lake, but a flash flood crashed large boulders into the delta, where massive rocks still lie today.

The rover has been traveling along the crater since its arrival on the Red Planet's surface in February and has been sending images that scientists use to look for evidence of things once present in the area.

 NASA's Perseverance Rover Images Reveal That Jezero Crater in Mars Was an Ancient Lake 3.7 Billion Years Ago
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
This elevation map of the Jezero crater (inset) and its surroundings shows the topography of the broader region, from the highlands (reds and browns) to the lower-lying floor of the Isidis impact basin (green).

Dramatic Shift in Climate Change Led to Current Dry, Desert-Like Landscape of Mars

Daily Mail reported that MIT experts based their findings on the images of the rocks at the western side of the Jezero crater. They compared satellite images of the same outcrop to the images taken by the rover.

The Jezero crater resembles river deltas found on Earth when they looked at images taken by satellites. Layers of sediment are deposited in the shape of a fan, just like how it is in lakes on Earth.

Meanwhile, images taken by the rover showed a different angle and confirmed that this outcrop was indeed a river delta. In their study, titled "Perseverance Rover Reveals an Ancient Delta-Lake System and Flood Deposits at Jezero Crater, Mars" published in Science, researchers noted that the ancient lake was calm for most of its existence.

However, a dramatic climate change triggered a flash flood that sent large boulders into the delta, which resulted in the current dry, desert-like landscape of Mars. MIT planetary science Professor Benjamin Weiss said that the crater could be the most forlorn place anyone could visit, as there is not a single drop of water where a quiet lake was once present.

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Flash Floods Brought Large Boulders to the Crater

According to Science Daily, researchers noticed that large boulders embedded the uppermost layer of the delta's surface. Analysis showed that the boulders measured as wide as 1 meter across and weighed several tons that might have come from outside of the crater.

Moreover, they said that the boulders were most likely carried downstream and into the lakebed via flash flood that flowed up to 9 meters per second and flowed up to a rate of 3,000 cubic meters of water per second. Weiss noted that a powerful flood is needed to carry these massive rocks, which means a change in local hydrology likely happened.

Their analysis also showed that boulders sit atop the layers of older and finer sediment, indicating that the ancientt lake was filled with a gently flowing river. But the flash flood brought giant boulders onto the delta.

Sediments Could Hold Clue to the Climate Change in Mars

NASA's Perseverance rover has been sending images back to Earth and has recently started collecting rock samples from the Red Planet. Sky News reported that the team believes that the sediment holds the key to information about the climate change on Mars that may have caused the flash flood on the Jezero crater.

More so, they hope to reveal fossilized traces of life on Mars by analyzing Martian rock samples that will eventually be returned to Earth in the coming years.

Weiss said that the most surprising thing about these images is that there is a possibility that they would discover when the Jezero crater started to transform from an Earth-like habitable place to the desolate landscape that it is today.

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Check out more news and information on Mars in Science Times.