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Martian lake confirmation brings hope sediment samples may reveal past life

Mars rover Perseverance (pictured while landing on the Red Planet in 2021) already has confirmed an ancient lake on Mars. New research published Friday offers hope that the Perseverance rover's confirmation of that lake could mean sediment samples from the lake's crater might reveal whether life ever existed on Mars. File Photo by NASA/UPI
Mars rover Perseverance (pictured while landing on the Red Planet in 2021) already has confirmed an ancient lake on Mars. New research published Friday offers hope that the Perseverance rover's confirmation of that lake could mean sediment samples from the lake's crater might reveal whether life ever existed on Mars. File Photo by NASA/UPI

Jan. 26 (UPI) -- New research published Friday offers hope that the sediment samples picked up by the Mars rover Perseverance could reveal traces of life -- if it ever existed on the Red Planet.

The rover already has confirmed an ancient lake on Mars.

The new research published in Science Advances shows the Jezero Crater, where Perseverance verified lake sediments, is theorized to have been filled with water that deposited layers of sediments on the crater floor.

"The delta deposits in Jezero Crater contain sedimentary records of potentially habitable conditions on Mars," the research article's abstract stated. "NASA's Perseverance rover is exploring the Jezero western delta with a suite of instruments that include the RIMFAX ground penetrating radar, which provides continuous subsurface images that probe up to 20 meters below the rover."

The research by UCLA and the University of Oslo shows the lake subsequently shrank and the sediments carried by a river formed a large delta.

A map shows a yellow line for the Mars Perseverance rover's trip south, and its planned trip north and west to the ancient river delta in the Jezero Crater. Image courtesy of NASA
A map shows a yellow line for the Mars Perseverance rover's trip south, and its planned trip north and west to the ancient river delta in the Jezero Crater. Image courtesy of NASA

"From orbit we can see a bunch of different deposits, but we can't tell for sure if what we're seeing is their original state, or if we're seeing the conclusion of a long geological story," said paper author and UCLA professor David Paige. "To tell how these things formed, we need to see below the surface."

The radar images revealed sediments shaped like lake deposits on Earth. Their existence was confirmed by the new research.

An illustration depicts Jezero Crater on Mars, where NASA's Perseverance rover is exploring, when it was an ancient lake. Illustration courtesy of NASA
An illustration depicts Jezero Crater on Mars, where NASA's Perseverance rover is exploring, when it was an ancient lake. Illustration courtesy of NASA

According to Paige, the changes seen in the rock record come from large-scale changes in the Martian environment. He said there's a lot of evidence of that change in a small geographic area and that allows scientists to "extend our findings to the scale of the entire crater."