NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover found signs that there could be organic chemicals in rock samples from the Jezero crater, indicating the presence of liquid water. Multiple rocks at the base of Mars’s Jezero Crater, where the 2020 landing of the Perseverance rover was observed, have been analyzed and shown to have considerable interaction with liquid water. Those rocks have also been found to contain evidence that is consistent with the existence of organic substances.
Since organic chemicals can also be synthesized via non-biological processes, their mere presence is insufficient to prove the existence of life. A future expedition to bring the samples back to Earth would be required to find this out for sure.
The study, which was published on November 23 in the journal Science and was led by researchers from Caltech, was conducted by an international team including experts from Imperial College London. Professor Mark Sephton of the Earth Science and Engineering Department at Imperial College London is one of the scientists that helped operate the Mars rover and analyzed the data gathered.
The delta of Jezero is where the water-moving Perseverance discovered organic substances in the past. Geologically speaking, a delta is a fan-shaped feature that forms when a river meets a lake at the crater’s rim.
The Jezero delta was of particular interest to the mission’s scientists because of its potential to maintain microorganisms. When a river carrying granular sediments enters a deeper, more slowly flowing body of water, a delta forms. When a river widens, the flow of water suddenly slows down, dumping the sediments it has been carrying and trapping and maintaining any microorganisms that may be there.
The delta was quite well-known, but the crater bottom, where the rover stopped for safety before heading to the delta, was less so. Since water continually deposits sediment in layers, the scientists predicted that lake beds would be rich in sedimentary rocks. Some scientists were taken aback by the discovery of volcanic rocks on the crater floor, as the minerals within them documented not just igneous processes but also considerable contact with water.
Water must move throughout the igneous rocks, creating cavities and deposition sites for carbonates, salts, and other dissolved minerals. In some instances, the results show signs for organics within these possibly livable niches.
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