Excitement Builds for Finding Life on Mars After Perseverance Rover’s Ground-Penetrating Radar Discovery

Strange Martian Mineral Deposit

An aerial photo shows the remains of a delta where a water source once fed an ancient lake at the Jezero crater on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Ground-penetrating radar reveals eons of environmental changes, offers hope that soil samples hold traces of life.

  • Ground-penetrating radar onboard NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover has confirmed that the Jezero crater, formed by an ancient meteor impact just north of the Martian equator, once harbored a vast lake and river delta.
  • Over eons, sediment deposition and erosion within the crater shaped the geologic formations visible on the surface today.
  • The discovery of lake sediments reinforces the hope that traces of life might be found in soil and rock samples collected by Perseverance.
NASA Mars Perseverance Rover RIMFAX Ground Penetrating Radar

Animation showing the RIMFAX instrument on NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover acquiring ground-penetrating radar measurements across the contact between the crater floor and the delta in Jezero crater, Mars. Credit: Euibin Kim, David Paige, UCLA

If life ever existed on Mars, the Perseverance rover’s verification of lake sediments at the base of the Jezero crater reinforces the hope that traces might be found in the crater.

In new research published in the journal Science Advances, a team led by UCLA and The University of Oslo shows that at some point, the crater filled with water, depositing layers of sediments on the crater floor. The lake subsequently shrank and sediments carried by the river that fed it formed an enormous delta. As the lake dissipated over time, the sediments in the crater were eroded, forming the geologic features visible on the surface today.

Mars Perseverance Rover RIMFAX Ground Penetrating Radar Measurements Hawksbill Gap

Mars Perseverance Rover RIMFAX ground penetrating radar measurements of the Hawksbill Gap region of the Jezero Crater Western Delta, Mars. Hawksbill Gap. Credit: Svein-Erik Hamran, Tor Berger, David Paige, University of Oslo, UCLA, California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA

The periods of deposition and erosion took place over eons of environmental changes, the radar indicates, confirming that inferences about the Jezero crater’s geologic history based on Mars images obtained from space are accurate.

“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 David Paige, a UCLA professor of Earth, planetary and space sciences and first author of the paper. “To tell how these things formed, we need to see below the surface.”

AI-interpolated video from NAVCAM images from the NASA Perseverance Rover as it traversed down the Jezero Western Delta from Cape Nukshak to the Crater Floor on Sol 641. Credit: Lior Rubanenko, Emily Cardarelli, Justin Maki, David Paige, UCLA, California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA

The rover, which is about the size of a car and carries seven scientific instruments, has been exploring the 30-mile-wide crater, studying its geology and atmosphere and collecting samples since 2021. Perseverance’s soil and rock samples will be brought back to Earth by a future expedition and studied for evidence of past life.

Between May and December 2022, Perseverance drove from the crater floor onto the delta, a vast expanse of 3 billion-year-old sediments that, from orbit, resembles the river deltas on Earth.

Mars Perseverance Rover RIMFAX Ground Penetrating Radar Measurements Hawksbill Gap Region

Mars Perseverance Rover RIMFAX ground penetrating radar measurements of the Hawksbill Gap region of the Jezero Crater Western Delta, Mars. Credit: Svein-Erik Hamran, Tor Berger, David Paige, University of Oslo, UCLA, California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA

As the rover drove onto the delta, Perseverance’s Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment, RIMFAX, instrument fired radar waves downward at 10-centimeter intervals and measured pulses reflected from depths of about 20 meters below the surface. With the radar, scientists can see down to the base of the sediments to reveal the top surface of the buried crater floor.

Years of research with ground-penetrating radar and testing of RIMFAX on Earth have taught scientists how to read the structure and composition of subsurface layers from their radar reflections. The resulting subsurface image shows rock layers that can be interpreted like a highway road cut.

“Some geologists say that the ability of radar to see under the surface is kind of like cheating,” said Paige, who is RIMFAX’s deputy principal investigator.

Mars Perseverance Rover RIMFAX Ground Penetrating Radar Measurements Cape Nukshak

Mars Perseverance Rover RIMFAX ground penetrating radar measurements of the Cape Nukshak region of the Jezero Crater Western Delta, Mars. Credit: Svein-Erik Hamran, Tor Berger, David Paige, University of Oslo, UCLA, California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA

RIMFAX imaging revealed two distinct periods of sediment deposition sandwiched between two periods of erosion. UCLA and the University of Oslo report that the crater floor below the delta is not uniformly flat, suggesting that a period of erosion occurred prior to the deposition of lake sediments. The radar images show that the sediments are regular and horizontal — just like sediments deposited in lakes on Earth. The existence of lake sediments had been suspected in previous studies, but has been confirmed by this research.

A second period of deposition occurred when fluctuations in the lake level allowed the river to deposit a broad delta that once extended far out into the lake, but has now eroded back closer to the river’s mouth.

“The changes we see preserved in the rock record are driven by large-scale changes in the Martian environment,” Paige said. “It’s cool that we can see so much evidence of change in such a small geographic area, which allows us extend our findings to the scale of the entire crater.”

Reference: “Ground penetrating radar observations of the contact between the western delta and the crater floor of Jezero crater, Mars” by David A. Paige, Svein-Erik Hamran, Hans E. F. Amundsen, Tor Berger, Patrick Russell, Reva Kakaria, Michael T. Mellon, Sigurd Eide, Lynn M. Carter, Titus M. Casademont, Daniel C. Nunes, Emileigh S. Shoemaker, Dirk Plettemeier, Henning Dypvik, Sanna Holm-Alwmark and Briony H. N. Horgan, 26 January 2024, Science Advances.
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adi8339

The research was funded by NASA, the Research Council of Norway, and the University of Oslo.

40 Comments on "Excitement Builds for Finding Life on Mars After Perseverance Rover’s Ground-Penetrating Radar Discovery"

  1. Looks like lava flows not water at all, there would be a myriad of smaller streams, this looks clearly to be lava flow, sorry not water.

  2. Looking for life where you will never find it.
    The eons of high wind continuously reforming the surface of Mars puts a big question mark on why you consider the observable features to have any realistic reflection of condition that may have existed.
    Life , even in it’s Simplist form, life, is much too complex to be a product of abiogenesis. This article is propaganda!

    • Mean wind speed on Mars is relatively weak.

    • I think the right comment to yours would be “for god sake don’t confuse science and belief. These are separate things. You can’t (shouldn’t ) take the Bible literally. As a believer in God I find totally absurd that in the XXI Century we still have to explain this to people that are sufficiently educated to write a meaningful sentence.

  3. To assume is to fail. Therefore we must always try and explore to find the truth, no matter what it may be. Success is achieved through determination

  4. I love how science makes huge assumptions as if its fact… The only fact being dont know diddly squat… huge eye roll smh!

  5. Mars = Devon Island

    No such thing as outer space or giant rocks flying through infinite nothing.

    • We are on a giant rock that we named Earth, and it is flying through the infinite nothing that we named outer space.

  6. They have spent enough money over the years flying off on missions going no where,have brought nothing to help mankind to no point. The money they spent shooting to the other side of the world for there again no benefits could paid the deficit off 10 times or more and also resolved mother earths issues. And put a top of the one security around our planet that we do need for survival and fixed our people and condions for all humans here on our GREAT MOTHER EARTH.

    • Since its inception in 1958, the USA has spent $650 billion USD on NASA, and benefitted from: 1. Scientific research and discoveries: NASA conducts cutting-edge research in a variety of scientific fields, leading to new technologies and understanding of the universe, which ultimately benefit society as a whole.

      2. Technological advancements: NASA’s work has led to the development of numerous technologies that have been adapted for everyday use, such as satellite communications, GPS, and medical imaging devices.

      3. Economic impact: NASA’s activities drive innovation and create jobs in the space industry, as well as in related fields such as engineering, manufacturing, and software development.

      4. Inspiring the next generation: NASA’s missions and discoveries inspire people of all ages to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), helping to cultivate a skilled workforce for the future.

      5. Environmental monitoring: NASA satellites provide critical data on climate change, natural disasters, and environmental conditions, helping governments and organizations make informed decisions to protect the planet and its inhabitants.

      Overall, NASA benefits the public by advancing human knowledge, driving technological innovation, encouraging education and interest in STEM fields, and contributing to the betterment of society and the environment.

      In contrast, Comrade Donal’d Trumpov built a record breaking national debt of 7.8 trillion dollars in his 4 year term, burdening the economy for years to come. This amounts to approximately $23,500 in new federal debt per person in the country. In 2018, Comrade Donal’d Trumpov dismantled the National Security Council Directorate that was preparing for when, not if, another pandemic would hit the USA. Comrade Donal’d Trumpov’s deliberate mishandling of the Novel Coronavirus pandemic caused 109,632,783 SARS-CoV-2 Novel Coronavirus cases, and 1,184,159 Covid-19 deaths in the USA, further causing immeasurable suffering for The People there. Millions of the surviving Americans suffer from Long-Covid. (These numbers were last updated by Worldometer on August 12th 2023, at 01:44 GMT).
      Almost as many of The People died from Trump’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the 1,266,700 Americans who died in 250 years on the battlefields of the American War for Independence, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba Bay of Pigs, Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, combined. (google “worldometer coronavirus usa”).

  7. I’ve been reading this garbage since 1990’s… it’s always ‘water’ when the are 100+ other elements that could be flowing in liquid state but it’s always ‘water’ because they WANT TO BELIEVE. Tell me why does a headline like this capture attention or even NEED to be stated if they are SO SURE about their detective work since the 90s. The 3000th time you tell me you’ve discovered proof of water on Mars sorta seems like a Crazy Used Car BUY BUY BUY commercial with lots of flickering lights and inflatable floppy armed guys. Facts need be shown once because they are indisputable- fictions or half truths need be repeated and rehersed in order to coerce your mind. When you hear “proof of water on Mars…” think about Russia Gate- “RUSSIA RUSSIA RUSSIA….!!!!….” There’s water on Mars if you want there to be and there’s no water on Mars if you don’t want there to be. If you need money or funding or to keep your worthless degree relevant in unreasonable non-measurable ficto-science then you drum up articles such as this one, or if you need to make your job at the university relevant….

  8. Key words…Perseverance’s soil and rock samples will be brought back to earth by future expeditions and studied for evidence of PAST life. Oh, that’s nice. Sending people to die, just to prove life ONCE may have existed.

  9. On the real,they need tax money of ours to lie to us saying they found or think this,so they can live their lazy ass selves doing nothing,but creating reasons,to dupp us into believing,and get more money, saying this ,that and the other and want more of our money to sit on their rich asses acting like they found something knowing,if they did,they would not tell,cause they need more money,to sit on their ass,lie then say we need more money from tax payers to find out what they already know?

  10. The dumb in these comments is just outstanding. Luckily, we’ll go extinct soon.

  11. Just think of Al the efforts man has made to create technology to kill each other. All the major nations spending their trillions on bigger better when all of this could have made us a planet jewel worth living on and then we could have advanced our civilization to other planets but thankfully that has never happened since we take greed power and destruction wherever we go

  12. Wow, I didn’t realize this site was so frequented by so many unbelievably silly people. Anyhow, this is pretty exciting!

    • I always forget conspiracy theories are a thing, good reminder everyone has a different perspective of reality. It is comical to see though!

  13. The earth is not a ball with gas pressure spinning in a vacuum. Planets are wandering stars. Mars is dubbed the Haughton Mars Project which is located on Devon Island. To believe we are orbiting the sun at a masonic speed of 66000 mph is literally worshipping the ancient greek sun god Helios, at the mythical temple of heliocentrism. All luminaries rotate around Polaris above our flat and motionless earth plane.

  14. Primitive life can develop and exist under extreme conditions. I would not be so quick to dismiss the possibility.

  15. All these rediculous claims by people who don’t show evidence nor list their credentials to back it up. I think I will side with the science on this one. If you paid attention to your science classes in school, you may remember this thing called hypothesis. They don’t just make these things up out of thin air. They base them on already observed evidence. Then they take what they know and make an educated extrapolation of what already observed things could be the result of. Then look for evidence that would prove or disprove their theory often times discovering new things along the way that can shape the direction of their investigation. If some think these formations could be formed from things besides water, what would you suggest and what is your scientific evidence and/or already know facts and of what substance would you theorize could have caused this? Keep in mind that the temperatures, gravity and atmospheric pressures of Mars and how they affect geological development.
    Speaking of money and “advancing life on earth,” many many things have been invented in the name of space travel that have greatly benefitted us on earth.

  16. I love science and can Imagine that someday man might colonize mars and my fist thought is that this would solve the over population of Earth and end the border crisis not to mention the tremendous slowing of greenhouse gases that were pumping into the air,If you think hard enough another habital planet could solve most of the problems that plague mankind at least for a few hundred years, But it is frustrating reading everyday that we’re almost there and never seeing the end of the tunnel but for me all i would say is “carry on my dear Watson”nothing is achieved without a tremendous effort and mankind was programmed to Explore.

  17. What a waste of money. Take care of stuff on planet Earth. You can’t live on mars, no magnetosphere to protect us from solar radiation. Why do you think all or most of the H2O is missing? My God, where do these people come from? Look at the big picture past your noses. Besides, when our sun goes supernova we’re toast anyway.

  18. martian seeking refuge in mexico | February 4, 2024 at 11:29 pm | Reply

    gleble globle gooble snarp garp

  19. Barry C Chick SR | February 5, 2024 at 9:29 am | Reply

    Good job I believe that it is just a matter of time before we find life beyond mother earth. Keep up the good work.

  20. Yes, we already give billions to other countries; space system is less. Are you ready? .48 (almost 1/2 of 1% of the US budget is spent on NASA. So next to nothing. If you were more explorative, you would find NASA knows more about our planet – hence helping us know how to move forward as the environment of Earth changes based on geological outcomes over time – and how we might keep Earth safe for those who live here as Earth, in the next 100 years, heats up 1/2 degree. We only are aware of that through NASA exploration at the price of almost 1/2 of 1 percent of the USA annual budget!

  21. Wambya Mikewambiwambya | February 7, 2024 at 8:05 am | Reply

    Why go to Mars when there is Free land at north/south poles

  22. There is clearly frozen water under the surface of Mars which has been seen escaping from the walls of craters and possibly canyons. It may sublimate quickly when exposed to the atmosphere, but it’s there. Life can exist where there is water, even underground protected from radiation. The Viking landers in the 1970’s may have detected it.Hundreds of millions of years ago even the surface of Mars may have hosted primitive life.

  23. David Crockettett | February 18, 2024 at 10:23 pm | Reply

    I think everyone is missing the point, namely water, in itself, does not necessarily lead to life. It may be a vital component but many other factors go into biological formation. These online articles are written by non scientists and often make assumptions not necessarily in evidence which leads to emotionally driven conclusions.

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