Mars, Perseverance rover Fine-grained rocks in the Hogwallow Flats region

(ORDO NEWS) — Exploration of the Perseverance rover in the Martian region Hawksbill Gap in the Lake Delta continues! Over the past few weeks, the rover has carried out abrading in two different places. First, the rover carried out abrading in the Devils Tanyard area.

Unfortunately, the crumbly rock in the Devils Tanyard area was broken up and moved by the force of the rover’s abrasive action. However, the team was able to use the SuperCam and Mastcam-Z tools to collect valuable scientific data about the abrasion site and surrounding area.

The rover then moved up the delta to blast the Hogwallow Flats, which the team nicknamed the “Bacon Stripes” because of the light-colored, striped rocks that look like stripes of bacon in the Hi-Rise orbiter’s imagery.

The rocks at Hogwallow Flats are very fine-grained, which is good news for the scientists involved in the mission, as fine-grained rocks are more likely to preserve evidence of life. To understand this, we need to talk a little about organic molecules.

Molecules made up primarily of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are called organic molecules and are the basic building blocks of life on Earth. Some small organic molecules can form without the presence of life (they have been found on Mars and in meteorites in the past), so the presence of organic molecules in rock does not automatically mean the presence of life.

However, detection of particularly large and complex organic molecules or specific patterns of organic molecules can be considered as a biosignature. Unfortunately, large and complex molecules eventually break down into smaller ones under the influence of solar radiation and reactions with rocks and the atmosphere.

If there had been life in Lake Lake 3-4 billion years ago, then most of the large organic molecules formed by it would have been destroyed, leaving little evidence of the presence of life.

In order to have a chance of finding evidence of life in the samples the rover will eventually send back, we need to sample the rocks that have the best chance of preserving complex organic molecules fine-grained rocks.

This is because fine-grained rocks are more likely to contain large amounts of clay minerals than rocks with large amounts of sand, pebbles, and gravel.

Clay minerals have surfaces that can bond with organic molecules, much like magnets with opposite charges stick to each other. By attaching to clay minerals in this way, complex organic molecules can be protected from damage in the harsh Martian environment and persist for a much longer period of time.

The team plans to have Perseverance explore a few more sites in this region of Mars before deciding where it will take samples. We will continue to watch for finer rocks as we move from Hogwallow Flats!

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