NASA’s Perseverance rover has stumbled upon a location believed to be one of the best places to find signs of ancient life on Mars. The site referred to as “Enchanted Lake” is an outcrop of layered rocks at the base of Jezero Crater, the landing site of Perseverance and the current exploration site. This location is named for a landmark in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve, and the image it appears in was captured by one of Perseverance’s Hazcams on April 30.
Why is Enchanted Lake the best place to find life signs?
The mission team exploring the region through Perseverance believe the delta on the western rim of Jezero Crater formed billions of years ago at the confluence of a Martian river and a crater lake. Because of this watery history, experts find this location the most promising for providing clues to the microbial life on Mars, which is the main goal of Perseverance.
“When I saw the hazcam image of Enchanted Lake, it was love at first sight,” said Katie Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, in a statement. “This image offered our first close-up look at sedimentary rocks — the ones I’ve been most excited to explore since Jezero was designated the landing site for Perseverance nearly four years ago.”
She further revealed that Enchanted Lake was the mission team’s first encounter with sedimentary rock in Jezero Crater. Sedimentary rocks are formed when fine particles are swept away by flowing water, deposit as layers, and eventually become rock. “Even if we find other targets in the delta to take samples from, I will always have a special place in my heart for the rocks that showed me we sent the rover to the right place,” Stack Morgan said.
Currently Perseverance is parked in a location called “Hogwallow Flats” which is a field of sedimentary rock. In this region, the rover will sample and analyze some more rocks, and then the team would decide to either return to Enchanted Lake or explore other new locations.