Reading Martian rocks, searching for ancient life

During the last 50 years, orbital and rover observation has revealed a rich sedimentary record on Mars which demonstrate the former presence of liquid water, with much of this record dating 3.6–3.0 Ga. Studies in Martian sedimentary geology have never been more active. Martian exploration deeply changed during the last 15 years with the arrival of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its high resolution camera in 2006 and with the landing of the Curiosity rover a few years later. Both these instruments allowed for the first time reading rocks in unparalleled detail. Orbital imagery has revealed a vast, ancient stratigraphic record and rover missions have enabled detailed sedimentological studies combined with mineralogical and chemical analyses. As on Earth, extraterrestrial sedimentary rocks may archive information pertaining to ancient climate, tectonics and potentially, life. Considering ongoing and future exploration missions aim to search for life and past climate conditions, sedimentary rock outcrops therefore make desirable targets being these information potentially embedded within martian stratigraphy.

This seminar will show how sedimentologists explore Mars. A general introduction of Martian exploration will be presented, followed by recent results of outstanding research in Martian sedimentology and an overview of the geology and hydrology at the NASA Perseverance landing site.