Lighter colours symbolize increased elevation on this picture of Jezero Crater on Mars, the touchdown web site for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. The oval signifies the touchdown ellipse, the place the rover will probably be touching down on Mars. NASA
With the Mars 2020 rover present process remaining testing earlier than its launch subsequent yr, NASA scientists are turning their consideration to the rover’s touchdown web site in Mars’ Jezero Crater. A newly printed paper within the journal Icarus has recognized mineral deposits across the rim of the crater which mark among the greatest locations to search for proof of historical life on the planet.
The Jezero Crater is the location of an historical lake that existed round three.5 billion years in the past. On the edges of the crater, scientists discovered minerals referred to as carbonates which type from the interactions between carbon dioxide and water. The carbonates shaped across the shore of the lake like a tub ring.
On Earth, carbonates assist to type the construction of fossils that may final for billions of years. These fossils embody seashells, coral, and rocks shaped from microbial life referred to as stromatolites. The presence of carbonates within the Mars crater point out that these can be one of the best areas to seek for historical fossils.
The info was collected utilizing an instrument aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, referred to as the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars instrument (CRISM). “CRISM noticed carbonates right here years in the past, however we solely just lately observed how concentrated they’re proper the place a lakeshore can be,” lead creator of the paper, Briony Horgan, mentioned in a press release. “We’re going to come across carbonate deposits in lots of areas all through the mission, however the bathtub ring will probably be some of the thrilling locations to go to.”
One of many predominant functions of the Mars 2020 mission is to search for proof of historical life on Mars, so the carbonate findings are encouraging. “The chance that the ‘marginal carbonates’ shaped within the lake surroundings was some of the thrilling options that led us to our Jezero touchdown web site,” Mars 2020 Deputy Undertaking Scientist Ken Williford mentioned in the identical assertion. “Carbonate chemistry on an historical lakeshore is a incredible recipe for preserving information of historical life and local weather. We’re desperate to get to the floor and uncover how these carbonates shaped.”
Mars 2020 is about to launch from Cape Canaveral in July subsequent yr and may land within the Jezero Crater in February 2021.