For more than a year, NASA’s Perseverance has been gathering samples and examining the landscape on the Jezero Crater bottom. In order to return to Earth within the next ten years, certain samples have been placed in specialized capsules. However, scientists have already discovered several fascinating facts about the rocks, which have consequences for the history of Mars and its potential to support life.
These preliminary findings have been discussed by researchers in the journals Science (here and here) and Science Advances (here and here). The first study focuses on the makeup of the Sétah formation, one of the fascinating Perseverance’s early priorities. It is composed primarily of igneous rocks, olivine, which indicates that they were created by the slow cooling of a thick sheet of lava.
The second paper, which concentrated on radar detection up to 15 meters (49 feet) below the surface, supports this theory. The first three kilometers (1.86 miles) of the journey’s scan reveal a stratified structure beneath the crater floor. The observations are in line with igneous layers that have been affected throughout time by water.
A lake with a river flowing through it was located in Jezero Crater. Perseverance is now investigating the river’s delta. It will be possible to determine when the lake was formed and more by examining the sample here on Earth.
Professor of earth and planetary science at the University of California, Berkeley, David Shuster, who is a co-lead author of the Science research, stated in a statement, “From a sampling viewpoint, this is huge.” “People are really excited about the ingredients that we have evidence of aqueous alteration of igneous rocks, with relation to understanding environmental conditions that may have supported life at some point after these rocks were produced.”
The samples in issue were from the neighboring Sétah formation and the Sétah formation, which are Navajo names for “amidst the sand” and “Mars,” respectively. These and the numerous samples Perseverance is gathering will give a thorough history of the area because the rocks appeared to have developed below and cooled slowly, and they may be from two different eruptions.
“The igneous rocks we found have a lot of importance because they can tell us when the lake was present in Jezero. Geochemist Kenneth Farley of Caltech, who is also a co-lead author, stated that “we know it was there more recently than the igneous crater floor rocks originated. “This will answer some important queries: When did Mars’ climate allow for the presence of lakes and rivers on its surface? And when did it start to get so cold and dry like it is right now?
Perseverance’s top priority is to figure out what happened in this ancient lake. It affects how we understand Mars and the early solar system in general, and it certainly raises the issue of whether or not there is life. On Mars, did the right ingredients exist? Would a lake with those characteristics be able to mutate them into a living form? Questions that still need to be resolved.
“Life flourishes in these kinds of settings on Earth. The Jezero delta and crater are being investigated in an effort to search for rocks that may hold evidence of prehistoric life in these formerly inhabited areas, according to co-author Professor Amy Williams of the University of Florida.
Together with Ingenuity, the Mars helicopter that has recently completed its 30th mission, Perseverance will keep doing its analysis and sample collection.