NASA scientists have discovered one of the best places to look for ancient life. They are set to send their rover next year to Mars, Jezero Crater where the rover will land on February 18, 2021. The crater can show some signs of ancient life according to papers published in the journal, Icarus.
Jezero is the site of a lake that existed more than 3.5 billion years ago. It is a 45 kilometers wide crater that was once home to an ancient river on Mars. It identifies deposits of minerals called carbonates along the inner rim. Carbonates help form structures on earth that are strong enough to survive in fossilized form for billions of years, including seashells, corals and some stromatolites. Stromatolites are rocks formed by ancient microbial life along ancient shorelines where water and sunlight are in abundance.
The concentration of carbonates along Jezero’s shoreline makes the entire area a prime scientific hunting ground for stromatolite like structures. NASA’s next-generation mission is Mars 2020 with focus on astrobiology. They are aiming to build on the discoveries of NASA’s Curiosity which discovered that some parts of Mars could have supported microbial life billions of years ago.\
Mars 2020 will search for signs of microbial life, sampling rock core samples that will be deposited in metal tubes. Along with clues of microbial life, carbonates can help us learn how Mars went from having liquid water and a thick atmosphere to the frozen tundra it is today.