Updated: October 8, 2021 3:24:32 pm
By studying the pictures sent by NASA’s Perseverance rover, researchers have now confirmed that Mars’ Jezero crater was once a lake. Although the crater is currently dry and wind-eroded, the area used to be fed steadily by a small river 3.7 billion years ago. The team also found evidence of flash floods that occurred in the ancient lake.
The findings were published Thursday in the journal Science.
“If you look at these images, you’re basically staring at this epic desert landscape. It’s the most forlorn place you could ever visit,” says Benjamin Weiss, professor of planetary sciences in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and a member of the analysis team in a release. “There’s not a drop of water anywhere, and yet, here we have evidence of a very different past. Something very profound happened in the planet’s history.”
Scientists have planned to carry out more studies to unravel the climatic evolution of Mars and also search for remains of ancient aqueous life. Samples collected by Perseverance will eventually be returned to Earth and scientists can further probe them.
Study the building blocks of ancient Martian life? Sounds like a case for SHERLOC & WATSON. My SHERLOC instrument & WATSON camera help me look for organics & minerals that have been altered by watery environments. See how we investigate potential samples. https://t.co/vAAsFVEgUK pic.twitter.com/1N02ZPf7X3
— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) September 23, 2021
“We now have the opportunity to look for fossils,” says team member Tanja Bosak, associate professor of geobiology at MIT. “It will take some time to get to the rocks that we really hope have samples for signs of life. So, it’s a marathon, with a lot of potential.”
Launched on July 30, 2020, the Perseverance rover landed on the Jezero crater on February 18, 2021. Its main job is to search for signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock for a possible return to Earth.
The rover’s two cameras, Mastcam-Z and the SuperCam Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) have helped capture images of Mars. Once the images are sent to Earth, the research team processes and combines the images. Their analysis revealed that the sediment must have been deposited by flowing water.
“The most surprising thing that’s come out of these images is the potential opportunity to catch the time when this crater transitioned from an Earth-like habitable environment to this desolate landscape wasteland we see now. These boulder beds may be records of this transition and we haven’t seen this in other places on Mars,” adds Benjamin Weiss.
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