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New photographs released by NASA have revealed an ancient river delta on Mars that may once have hosted alien life.

'We know that water was running on the surface at one point in the past, but we don't know the duration of this activity. '

The area was also interspersed with layers of small boulders that result from flood events.

'Mars, at the time, probably had more ice, which could have melted suddenly by volcanic activity or meteor impacts, sending a rush of water, rocks and silt into the crater,' Weiss shared.

The findings will help researchers figure out where to send the rover for soil and rocks that may contain precious "biosignatures" of putative Martian life forms.

'Seeing Jezero from spacecraft in orbit is like looking at the cover of a book.

"we see lake outbursts on earth in places like reading the pages in the book. '

The region around the crater was of high interest for a rover mission because it contains the oldest known rocks on Mars

Images of Mars from a NASA rover confirm the Jezero crater was once a lake fed by a small river about 3.7 billion years ago- and sediments found within could hold traces of life, say experts.

It also reveals evidence that Jezero suffered flash floods.

"It will take some time to get to the rocks that we really hope to sample for signs of life.

So, it's a marathon, with a lot of potential," said Tanja Bosak, associate professor of geobiology at MIT.

The Perseverance rover captured photos of a rock formation now known as Kodiak Butte that 'indicates ... a closed lake system, under fluctuating water levels and changing styles of flow during later stages

Satellite pictures had shown the outcrop resembled Earth's river deltas, where sediment layers are left in the shape of a fan as a river feeds into slower-moving or stagnant water.

Scientists say the flooding swept large boulders tens of miles, from highlands well outside the crater, and left them on the lake bed, where they remain today.

It's the most forlorn place you could ever visit," said Professor Benjamin Weiss from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( MIT ).

"Something very profound happened in the planet's history."

Scientists say this new finding provides an 'unprecedented datapoint' that will guide NASA's decisions regarding further investigation of the planet

In February, Nasa's Perseverance rover landed in Jezero crater, where scientists suspected a long-gone river once fed a lake, depositing sediment in a fan-shaped delta visible from space.

Professor Weiss added : "The most surprising thing that's come out of these images is the potential opportunity to catch the time when this crater transitioned from an Earth-like habitable environment, to this desolate landscape wasteland we see now.

The study's findings are published in the journal Science.

The interpretation of these pictures forms the basis of the first scholarly paper to make it into print, in this week's edition of Science Magazine.

Newly released photos show the Jezero Crater delta region

The Perseverance science team will send the rover to the base of the main delta formation to drill into what are expected to be fine-grained mudstones.

"Something changed in the hydrology.

In the Ganges basin, you get these large boulders mixed in with normal river sands and this is where there's been a sudden flood episode from a glacial lake," he told BBC News.

The robot is tasked with gathering and packaging more than two dozen rock samples from various locations.

The findings have helped researchers identify locations on the main delta where experts can access similar environments

Click here to see how Nasa and Esa will bring rocks from Mars to Earth.

Images from Mars reveal how water helped shape the red planet's landscape billions of years ago, and provide clues that will guide the search for evidence of ancient life, according to a new study.

"From orbital images, we knew it had to be water that formed the delta," Williams said.

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