The US space agency NASA has shared pictures of an “Enchanted Lake” on Mars. These pictures show that the lake is a rocky outcrop that has been named after a landmark in an Alaskan National Park.
Its presence has given a boost to scientists who believe that the Perseverance Rover may help in finding the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on the red planet. These images were captured by the rover on April 30, 2022. Even though the feature is called Enchanted Lake, it is dry as a desert, just like the rest of the red planet.
Taken near the base of the Jezero Crater’s delta, the image provided scientists with the first close-up of sedimentary rocks, these images provide scientists with the opportunity to research sedimentary rocks. Notably, these sedimentary rocks are formed over time after fine particles are carried out by the atmosphere or water is deposited in layers turning into rocks. The image further suggests that the lake is dry, just like the rest of Mars.
After their research, scientists strongly believe that water was present in the lake in the past, making it the possibility of life at the time. Importantly, one of the Perseverance rover’s objectives is to find out the possibility of ancient microbial life on the planet.
The rover will study the geology of Mars and also the past climate to help scientists do exploration of the planet. It will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate to pave the way for human exploration of the planet and will become the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (Mars’ version of soil).
Issuing a statement, Katie Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, said that when she saw the image of Enchanted Lake she fell in love with it. She added that the images provided her team with the first up-close glimpse of sedimentary rocks, which she was very eager to explore after Jezero was named the landing site for the rover close to four years ago.
“Enchanted Lake was our first close encounter with sedimentary rocks in Jezero, but we’re going to do what rover missions do best – look around, drive, and then look some more,” said Katie Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, in a NASA press statement.
Reports suggest that the massive hot pressure-cooker-like conditions which form igneous rocks that line up most floors of the Jezero crater do not offer a friendly environment for preserving fossilized microscopic life. Because of this reason, sedimentary rocks are important, as they provide an ideal spot to research on the possibility of past life.
Since the image was taken in April, the Perseverance rover has traveled and parked itself halfway up the delta in a field of sedimentary rocks the science team calls ‘Hogwallow Flats.” Over the coming weeks, the rover will analyze and maybe even sample one or more of the rocks in the area. The team will then decide whether to return to Enchanted Lake or explore other outcrops of the Jezero delta.