To shed more light on the red planet, Mars; NASA's scientists have discovered what may be one of the best places to look for signs of ancient life in Jezero Crater, where the Mars 2020 rover will land on February 18, 2021. The agency which is set to send its rover next year to the Mar has found that Jezero Crater, where the rover will land on February 18, 2021; can show some signs of ancient life, according to a paper published in the journal Icarus.
It identifies distinct deposits of minerals called carbonates along the inner rim of Jezero, the site of a lake more than 3.5 billion years ago.
On Earth, carbonates help form structures that are hardy enough to survive in fossil form for billions of years, including seashells, coral and some stromatolites — rocks formed on this planet by ancient microbial life along ancient shorelines, where sunlight and water were plentiful.
The possibility of stromatolite-like structures existing on Mars is why the concentration of carbonates tracing Jezero's shoreline like a bathtub ring makes the area a prime scientific hunting ground.
Mars 2020 is NASA's next-generation mission with a focus on astrobiology. It will search for actual signs of past microbial life, taking rock core samples that will be deposited in metal tubes on the Martian surface. Future missions could return these samples to Earth for deeper study.
Also, carbonates can educate more about how Mars transitioned from having liquid water and a thicker atmosphere to being the freezing desert it is today. Carbonate minerals formed from interactions between carbon dioxide and water, recording subtle changes in these interactions over time. In that sense, they act as time capsules that scientists can study to learn when -- and how -- the Red Planet began drying out.
Measuring 28 miles (45 kilometres) wide, Jezero Crater was also once home to an ancient river delta. The orbiter's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars instrument, or CRISM, helped produce colourful mineral maps of the "bathtub ring" detailed in the new paper.
"CRISM spotted carbonates here years ago, but we only recently noticed how concentrated they are right where a lakeshore would be," said lead author, Briony Horgan of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
"We're going to encounter carbonate deposits in many locations throughout the mission, but the bathtub ring will be one of the most exciting places to visit," Horgan added.
The Mars 2020 team expects to explore both the crater floor and delta during the rover's two-year prime mission.
(with inputs from agencies)