UFO Buster Radio News – 295: LIVE Thursday Freak Out – New Rover To Investigate Martian Ancient Life, WTF!
NASA’s Life-Hunting Mars 2020 Rover Will Search for Alien Microfossils
The life-hunting grounds could be pretty rich for NASA’s next Mars rover.
Jezero Crater, the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) hole in the ground that the Mars 2020 rover will begin exploring in February 2021, has ample deposits of minerals that are good at preserving microfossils here on Earth, two new studies have found.
One of those minerals is hydrated silica. After poring over data gathered by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a team of researchers identified two Jezero outcrops that are rich in the stuff, Jesse Tarnas and colleagues reported this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
If life once existed in Jezero Crater, signs of it may well persist there to this day.
“We know from Earth that this mineral phase is exceptional at preserving microfossils and other biosignatures, so that makes these outcrops exciting targets for the rover to explore,” Tarnas, a Ph.D. student in planetary science at Brown University, said in a statement.
Deltas are good areas to search for signs of life, because these regions concentrate deposits from all over a river system. Indeed, the presence of a delta is one of the reasons NASA chose Jezero as the Mars 2020 landing site.
Just like the 96-mile-wide (154 km) Gale Crater, which NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has been exploring since August 2012, Jezero apparently hosted a lake in the ancient past. Orbital imagery has also revealed the remnants of a large delta in Jezero, which marks where a river drained into the lake.
“Carbonate chemistry on an ancient lakeshore is a fantastic recipe for preserving records of ancient life and climate,” Mars 2020 deputy project scientist Ken Williford, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in the statement. (JPL leads the Mars 2020 mission.) “We’re eager to get to the surface and discover how these carbonates formed.”
Carbonates themselves aren’t biosignatures; there are many different types, and most of them have nothing to do with life. But carbonate minerals form via the interaction of carbon dioxide and liquid water, so studying their presence and abundance could help reveal insights about Mars’ long-ago transition from a relatively warm and wet world to the cold desert planet that it is today, researchers said.
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