Mars rover data confirms the presence of ancient lake deposits on Mars


Written by Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Data collected by NASA’s Perseverance spacecraft has confirmed the presence of ancient lake sediments deposited by water that once filled a giant basin on Mars called the Jericho Crater, according to a study published on Friday.

The findings from the robotic rover’s ground-penetrating radar observations support previous orbital images and other data that led scientists to hypothesize that parts of Mars were once covered in water and may have harbored microbial life.

The research, led by teams from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Oslo, was published in the journal Science Advances.

It relied on subsurface scans made by the six-wheeled, car-sized spacecraft as it moved across the Martian surface from the floor of the crater to an adjacent expanse of braided, sediment-like features resembling river deltas found from orbit. On the ground.

Soundings from the spacecraft’s RIMFAX radar instrument allow scientists to peer underground to get a cross-sectional view of rock layers 65 feet (20 meters) deep, “almost like looking at a section of a road,” said David Page, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and first author. “. From the paper.

These layers provide unambiguous evidence that water-borne soil deposits were deposited in the Jerezo Crater and its delta from a river that fed it, just as they are in lakes on Earth. The results reinforce what previous studies have long suggested: that cold, dry and lifeless Mars was once warm, wet and perhaps habitable.

Scientists are looking to closely examine the geyserous deposits – believed to have formed about 3 billion years ago – in samples collected by the Perseverance rover for future transport to Earth.

Meanwhile, the latest study is a welcome confirmation that scientists did their geobiological endeavors around Mars in the right place on the planet after all.

Remote analysis of early core samples drilled by the Perseverance rover at four sites near where it landed in February 2021 surprised researchers by revealing rocks that were volcanic in nature, not sedimentary as expected.

The two studies are not contradictory. Even the volcanic rocks bore signs of being altered by exposure to water, and the scientists who published these findings in August 2022 concluded that the sedimentary deposits had probably been eroded.

Page said RIMFAX radar readings reported Friday did find signs of erosion before and after the formation of the sedimentary layers identified at the crater’s western rim, evidence of a complex geological history there.

“There were volcanic rocks that we landed on,” Paige said. “The real news here is that we’ve now gone into the delta and we’re now seeing evidence of lake sediments, which is one of the main reasons we ended up at this location. So it’s a happy story in that regard.”

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Will Dunham)

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