Scientists have discovered the presence of minerals and organic compounds on Mars that have been altered by water. This suggests that water may have flowed across Martian terrain billions of years ago.
Researchers, including MIT planetary scientist Eva Scheller, used the SHERLOC instrument on board the Perseverance Mars rover to measure the chemical composition of rock samples from Jezero Crater, an ancient lake and riverbed site. .
Since the Perseverance rover landed in Mars’ Jezero crater in February 2021, scientists have analyzed the data collected by the rover to Water and organic chemicals suggest ancient life on Mars.
Of particular interest to scientists is the area around Jezero Crater, which may have once been a river delta.
“This kind of environment on Earth is where life thrives,” said astrobiologist Amy Williams, one of the long-term planners of the Perseverance mission at the University of Florida, USA.
“The purpose of studying the Jezero Delta and Crater is to look for rocks that may contain evidence of ancient life in a once-inhabited environment,” said Dr. Williams.
In one new study, researchers have revealed the presence of carbonates mixed with olivine grains in the oldest volcanic igneous rocks at the crater floor.
These results suggest that water may have once penetrated these rocks, the scientists said.
“Carbonates were formed in olivine-rich igneous rocks by reaction with liquid water,” they wrote in the study.
Scientists have also found traces of phosphate, an important building block of life, in these rocks.
in the basalt of Young Mars formation At Jezero Crater, researchers also found evidence of a salt called perchlorate. Perchlorate is a negatively charged molecule composed of a chlorine atom and four oxygen atoms.
Scientists believe these perchlorates may have formed when Mars had liquid water.
“Because perchlorate dissolves readily, it is possible that perchlorate was formed when these rocks were last exposed to liquid water,” the scientists wrote in the study.
Research suggests that perchlorate is not very comfortable for life, but the water that may have led to the formation of perchlorate may have been conducive to life.
“This kind of highly oxygenated state is generally not suitable for preserving signs of life. It wouldn’t be the best place,” Dr. Scherrer told tech outlet Inverse.
The study may also shed light on the existence of ring-shaped organic compounds, but was unable to identify any specific chemical.
NASA also said the presence of organic matter does not necessarily mean that life once existed on Mars, as there may be both biological and abiotic mechanisms behind the formation of these molecules. had previously claimed.
When the rock samples collected by Perseverance are returned to Earth on future missions, they can be analyzed more thoroughly with more powerful analytical tools to bring even more life to Martian history.