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Part of the ancient delta seen by Perseverance. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

NASA's Perseverance rover has only been on Mars for a relatively short amount of time, but the spacecraft is already revealing the watery secrets of the Red Planet's ancient past.

Why it matters: Scientists have known at least some part of Mars was habitable billions of years ago, but this new data from Perseverance is allowing them to piece together more of the world's complex history.

What's happening: A new study in the journal Science uses photos taken by Perseverance to confirm that the ancient river delta in Jezero crater once flowed with water billions of years ago.

  • Long-lived water flows shaped the ground Perseverance now studies, but the new data also revealed fast-moving floods carried rocks from other areas into the delta.
  • By learning more about these flooding events and sediment deposits, Perseverance scientists may be able to better target samples that could show signs of organic materials that may reveal if life once thrived in Jezero.
  • "The finest-grained material at the bottom of the delta probably contains our best bet for finding evidence of organics and biosignatures," Sanjeev Gupta, a Perseverance scientist from Imperial College, London, and a co-author of the paper, said in a statement. "And the boulders at the top will enable us to sample old pieces of crustal rocks."

The big picture: One day, NASA plans to launch another mission that will collect those samples Perseverance gathers for a return to Earth.

  • By bringing those samples back, scientists will be able to use a range of tools to analyze the Martian rocks and learn more about them than a rover could.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

5 hours ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne spent longer under lockdown than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. on Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro. Security forces placed six U.S. oil executives under house arrest hours later, per AP.