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New research sheds light on when Mars may have had water

The SuperCam instrument onboard Perseverance helped researchers better understand rock composition of the Jezero Crater

Date:
August 25, 2022
Source:
DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory
Summary:
Scientists made a surprising discovery about the composition of rock in Jezero Crater, one that will help them get a better idea of when water existed on Mars, and ultimately, help them understand if the red planet was ever habitable to microbial life.
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Scientists on NASA's Perseverance mission made a surprising discovery about the composition of rock in Jezero Crater, one that will help them get a better idea of when water existed on Mars, and ultimately, help them understand if the red planet was ever habitable to microbial life.

"The SuperCam instrument suite of remote chemical and mineralogical tools on the Perseverance rover has made some exciting new detailed observations regarding Jezero Crater's history that could not be fully understood before landing," said Sam Clegg, deputy principal investigator for SuperCam. "This exciting new data will really help us better understand when the crater held water, and it also gives us insight into Mars' climate history."

The new research, published today (Aug. 25) in Science Advances, shows that Jezero Crater is largely made up of igneous rock, rather than sedimentary rock.

The crater where Perseverance landed in 2021 held water billions of years ago. For that reason, scientists predicted that rock in the area would be sedimentary, formed over time from settled mud, which would be the case for lakebeds on Earth. But to their surprise, they found that rock in Jezero is igneous, which is formed by volcanic magma.

Igneous rock is easier to date and could give researchers a more accurate way to estimate when Mars had water.

The rock analysis was done by SuperCam, a Los Alamos National Laboratory-designed instrument. SuperCam uses a focused infrared laser beam to remove dust and material from rock surfaces in a technique called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). The energy burst from each five-nanosecond pulse creates a flash; its optical spectrum (specific colors) reveals the elemental chemistry of targets up to about 25 feet away.

"Finding these igneous rocks in the bed of an ancient lake on Mars was quite a surprise. One would have expected lakebed sediments, but it shows that Mars' history is more complicated than expected, including lava flows in this ancient site," said Roger Wiens, principal investigator on the SuperCam instrument.


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Materials provided by DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Roger C. Wiens, Arya Udry, Olivier Beyssac, Cathy Quantin-Nataf, Nicolas Mangold, Agnès Cousin, Lucia Mandon, Tanja Bosak, Olivier Forni, Scott M. McLennan, Violaine Sautter, Adrian Brown, Karim Benzerara, Jeffrey R. Johnson, Lisa Mayhew, Sylvestre Maurice, Ryan B. Anderson, Samuel M. Clegg, Larry Crumpler, Travis S. J. Gabriel, Patrick Gasda, James Hall, Briony H. N. Horgan, Linda Kah, Carey Legett, Juan Manuel Madariaga, Pierre-Yves Meslin, Ann M. Ollila, Francois Poulet, Clement Royer, Shiv K. Sharma, Sandra Siljeström, Justin I. Simon, Tayro E. Acosta-Maeda, Cesar Alvarez-Llamas, S. Michael Angel, Gorka Arana, Pierre Beck, Sylvain Bernard, Tanguy Bertrand, Bruno Bousquet, Kepa Castro, Baptiste Chide, Elise Clavé, Ed Cloutis, Stephanie Connell, Erwin Dehouck, Gilles Dromart, Woodward Fischer, Thierry Fouchet, Raymond Francis, Jens Frydenvang, Olivier Gasnault, Erin Gibbons, Sanjeev Gupta, Elisabeth M. Hausrath, Xavier Jacob, Hemani Kalucha, Evan Kelly, Elise Knutsen, Nina Lanza, Javier Laserna, Jeremie Lasue, Stéphane Le Mouélic, Richard Leveille, Guillermo Lopez Reyes, Ralph Lorenz, Jose Antonio Manrique, Jesus Martinez-Frias, Tim McConnochie, Noureddine Melikechi, David Mimoun, Franck Montmessin, Javier Moros, Naomi Murdoch, Paolo Pilleri, Cedric Pilorget, Patrick Pinet, William Rapin, Fernando Rull, Susanne Schröder, David L. Shuster, Rebecca J. Smith, Alexander E. Stott, Jesse Tarnas, Nathalie Turenne, Marco Veneranda, David S. Vogt, Benjamin P. Weiss, Peter Willis, Kathryn M. Stack, Kenneth H. Williford, Kenneth A. Farley. Compositionally and density stratified igneous terrain in Jezero crater, Mars. Science Advances, 2022; 8 (34) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abo3399

Cite This Page:

DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory. "New research sheds light on when Mars may have had water." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 August 2022. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/08/220825164014.htm>.
DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory. (2022, August 25). New research sheds light on when Mars may have had water. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 21, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/08/220825164014.htm
DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory. "New research sheds light on when Mars may have had water." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/08/220825164014.htm (accessed February 21, 2024).

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