TechMars exploration update: Perseverance rover unveils hints of ancient water body, sparking life hunt

Mars exploration update: Perseverance rover unveils hints of ancient water body, sparking life hunt

Images source: © NASA
3:24 AM EST, January 27, 2024

Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) believe that the data from the Perseverance rover suggests that the currently studied Jezero Crater was once a water reservoir. This information was published in the journal "Science Advances", positing that the crater may have contained water in its distant past. Researchers are optimistic about discovering evidence of life.

According to scientists, the lake that used to exist in the crater gradually started to dwindle over time. Sediments carried by the lake's feeding river formed an extensive delta. The lakebed materials then eroded over time, creating structures now visible on the surface.

Discovering a lake on Mars

Planetary scientists explain that the sediment deposition process and its successive erosion spanned "eons", a timeframe equating to at least 500 million years. The results obtained by the Perseverance rover support hypotheses developed from the region's orbital photographs.

"From orbit, we can observe different types of sediment, but we can't confirm their original state or whether they're a result of prolonged geological processes. To understand the creation of these formations, we need to look beyond the surface," explains Professor David Paige from UCLA.

Perseverance rover's ongoing investigation of Mars

Since 2021, the Perseverance rover has been analysing a crater with a diameter of approximately 31 miles. From May to December 2022, it relocated from the crater's bottom to the aforementioned river delta, composed of sediments as old as three billion years. A radar device on the rover has allowed scientists to apprehend as much as 66 feet below the surface.

This process revealed two sediment deposition periods, interspersed with two erosion periods. A sediment layer formed when the lake's water level fluctuations enabled the river to create a vast delta. This delta eventually reached deep into the lake area, before undergoing erosion near the river's mouth.

The researchers noted that the sediments are arranged in evenly horizontal layers, much like on Earth. They also discovered that the crater's surface, concealed beneath the sediments, is non-flat, indicating erosion might have taken place before the deposition of the lake sediments.

Professor Paige notes: "The changes we observe preserved in the rock record result from significant fluctuations in the Martian environment. It's fascinating how much evidence of these changes we can see within a small geographical region. It allows us to apply our findings to the entire crater."

The rover's collected samples are expected to provide more information in the future. Planned mission aim to deliver them to Earth. Scientists are hopeful that they might contain traces of an ancient form of life.

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