‘Sprained Ankle’: Opportunity rover sends back new panorama from above ancient gully

A portion of the new panorama showing the region just above Perseverance Valley, which is just below the crater rim. A broad notch in the rim, at right, is where water may have once flowed down through the rim and into the crater below. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

NASA’s Opportunity rover has been busy examining the entranceway to Perseverance Valley, a long, shallow gully-like channel on the rim on Endeavour Crater which was likely created by flowing water millions or billions of years ago. This feature has been a major target of interest for mission scientists since, if confirmed, this would be the first such gully seen up close by any rover. A new panoramic image just released shows the view on the crater rim just above the valley itself, which includes a possible “spillway” where water once flowed over the rim and into the crater down below.

“It is a tantalizing scene,” said Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis. “You can see what appear to be channels lined by boulders, and the putative spillway at the top of Perseverance Valley. We have not ruled out any of the possibilities of water, ice or wind being responsible.”

On the right side of the panorama, a broad notch can be seen in the crater rim, which scientists think was likely a spillway, where either water, ice or wind flowed over the rim and into the crater. It isn’t known yet which explanation is accurate, but the valley does resemble ones known to have been formed by flowing water. Many such gullies and water-carved channels have been seen on Mars by orbiting spacecraft, but this would be the first time that one was studied on the surface. Principal Investigator Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. is optimistic however that this is indeed a water-carved gully:

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