Iron-rich rocks discovered close to historical lake websites on Mars might maintain very important clues as to whether or not life as soon as existed on the Red Planet, in accordance to new analysis revealed in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
An worldwide group of researchers, led by scientists from the University of Edinburgh, counsel that these rocks needs to be prime targets for upcoming missions—akin to NASA’s Mars 2020 rover—that are designed to seek for indicators of life. This life, if it exists, will probably take the type of tiny microbes, scientists assume.
The rocks in query shaped at the backside of historical lake beds between three and 4 billion years in the past, when the Martian floor was plentiful in water and its local weather was hotter. They are product of compacted mud and clay, whereas additionally being wealthy in iron and silica, which can assist to protect fossils.
The rocks themselves are higher preserved than these of the same age on Earth as a result of Mars’ crust doesn’t function plates, like these discovered on our planet. On Earth these plates transfer round, a course of which can destroy rocks and the fossils inside them.
For their research, the scientists performed a assessment of papers investigating fossils on Earth, whereas additionally inspecting the findings of experiments that replicated circumstances on Mars and information collected from earlier Mars missions.
“We apply recent results from the study of Earth’s fossil record and fossilization processes, and from the geological exploration of Mars by rovers and orbiters, in order to select the most favoured targets for astrobiological missions to Mars,” the authors wrote in the research.
“We conclude that mudstones rich in silica and iron‐bearing clays currently offer the best hope of finding fossils on Mars and should be prioritized, but that several other options warrant further research.”
The findings might assist future missions establish touchdown websites and the prime areas to collect rock samples.
“There are many attention-grabbing rock and mineral outcrops on Mars the place we want to seek for fossils, however since we won’t ship rovers to all of them we’ve got tried to prioritise the most promising deposits based mostly on the greatest out there info,” Sean McMahon from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said in a statement.