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At Future Mars Landing Spot, Scientists Spy Mineral that Could Preserve Signs of Ancient Life

15 Nov 2019, 20:53 UTC
At Future Mars Landing Spot, Scientists Spy Mineral that Could Preserve Signs of Ancient Life
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Next year, NASA plans to launch a new Mars rover to search for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet. A new study shows that the rover's Jezero crater landing site is home to deposits of hydrated silica, a mineral that just happens to be particularly good at preserving biosignatures."Using a technique we developed that helps us find rare, hard-to-detect mineral phases in data taken from orbiting spacecraft, we found two outcrops of hydrated silica within Jezero crater," said Jesse Tarnas, a Ph.D. student at Brown University and the study's lead author. "We know from Earth that this mineral phase is exceptional at preserving microfossils and other biosignatures, so that makes these outcrops exciting targets for the rover to explore."The research is published in Geophysical Research Letters.NASA announced late last year that its Mars 2020 rover would be headed to Jezero, which appears to have been home to an ancient lake. The star attraction at Jezero is a large delta deposit formed by ancient rivers that fed the lake. The delta would have concentrated a wealth of material from a vast watershed. Deltas on Earth are known to be good at preserving signs of life. Adding hydrated silica to ...

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