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New evidence of life on Mars found in Jezero crater lake sediments

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Oslo have uncovered evidence suggesting the Jezero crater on Mars once hosted a lake. 

This insight comes from the analysis of data gathered by NASA’s Perseverance rover, which has been surveying the crater’s surface and subsurface since 2021.

Lake sediments in Jezero crater

The study’s findings indicate that Jezero crater once contained lake sediments, pointing to the possibility of finding traces of past life in the crater.

David Paige, a UCLA professor of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences and the study’s first author, noted the importance of subsurface exploration in understanding the crater’s history. 

“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,” Paige said. “To tell how these things formed, we need to see below the surface.”

Intriguing discovery by Perseverance rover

The Perseverance rover’s journey from the crater floor onto the delta, a region rich in three billion-year-old sediments, involved utilizing the Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX).

This instrument allowed the team to peer beneath the surface, revealing the history of sediment deposition and erosion within the crater. 

The radar data confirmed that layers of lake sediments were deposited in the crater, followed by a period of erosion, reshaping the landscape over time.

Uncovering secrets in Jezero crater

Paige emphasized the novelty of this approach. “Some geologists say that the ability of radar to see under the surface is kind of like cheating,” he remarked. 

This technique unveiled two distinct periods of sediment deposition separated by erosion phases. The findings suggest that the lake sediments formed during an earlier era, followed by the deposition of the delta’s sediments as the lake level fluctuated.

The study’s implications extend beyond understanding the Jezero crater’s geology. It offers insights into the broader environmental changes on Mars, shedding light on the planet’s past and potentially its capability to host life. 

As Paige noted, “the changes we see preserved in the rock record are driven by large-scale changes in the Martian environment.” Thus, this study enhances our understanding of Mars, bringing us closer to unraveling its mysteries.

Perseverance rover 

As mentioned above, the Perseverance rover, part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, is a sophisticated mobile science platform designed to explore the surface of Mars.

Launched on July 30, 2020, it landed on Mars on February 18, 2021, in the Jezero Crater, an area believed to have once been flooded with water and thus a promising site to look for signs of past microbial life.

Advanced instruments

Perseverance carries a suite of advanced scientific instruments to analyze the Martian geology and climate, and to collect samples of rock and soil for possible return to Earth by future missions.

One of its notable instruments is the MOXIE experiment, designed to produce oxygen from Martian carbon dioxide, which could pave the way for future human exploration of Mars.

Ingenuity helicopter 

The rover also carries the Ingenuity helicopter, a technology demonstration to test powered flight on another planet for the first time.

Ingenuity’s journey began as a modest experiment designed for up to five test flights over 30 days.

However, it surpassed these goals significantly, operating for nearly three years and completing 72 flights, covering a distance 14 times greater than anticipated.

This impressive feat amounted to over two hours of total flight time, a testament to the helicopter’s resilience and the team’s ingenuity, before its mission ended last month.


Perseverance’s mission is not only to search for signs of ancient life but also to study the Martian environment to assist future human missions.

Its findings are expected to be a cornerstone in our understanding of Mars, potentially answering questions about the planet’s past habitability and helping to pave the way for human exploration.

The full study was published in the journal Science Advances.


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