NASA’s rover to hunt for microscopic fossils on Mars

WASHINGTON - NASA scientists have discovered a potential place for its Mars 2020 rover to look for signs of ancient life in Jezero Crater where the rover will land in February of 2021.

The study published Tuesday in the journal Icarus showed the existence of distinct deposits of minerals called carbonates along the inner rim of the crater, the site of a lake more than 3.5 billion years ago.

The hardy structures of carbonates can survive in fossil form for billions of years on Earth. Those fossils include seashells, coral and some stromatolites, which are rocks formed by ancient microbial life along ancient shorelines.

Scientists identified Jezero’s shoreline as a prime scientific hunting ground since the stromatolite-like structures may exist there. NASA’s Curiosity rover had already found that parts of Mars could have supported microbial life billions of years ago.

It identified the seasonal changes of the oxygen and methane directly above the surface of Gale Crater on Mars, showing tantalizing signs of possible biological activity on Mars. However, the Curiosity rover is unable to analyze what causes the changes.

Mars 2020 is NASA’s next-generation mission to study life throughout the universe. It will search for actual signs of past microbial life, taking rock core samples that will be deposited in metal tubes on the Martian surface. Also, carbonates can reveal more about how Mars transitioned from having liquid water and a thicker atmosphere to being the freezing desert it is today.

Taiwan bookstore Eslite to close its 24-hour Dunnan branch

TAIPEI - Taiwan’s landmark bookstore chain Eslite will close its 24-hour Dunnan branch, one of its iconic flagship stores, on May 31 of 2020, as the lease is due for the building in which the store is located, according to a news briefing Thursday.

The Dunnan store, opened in 1989, has been providing 24-hour service since 1999. It is the only store of Eslite’s 50 branches that offers such a service. “Over the years, the Dunnan store has served as a warm place for many people to go during the night,” said Chen Yi-fang, the store manager, who has worked for over a decade at the branch.

To mark its history, the store has prepared paper-cut rainbow-colored numbers showing the years from 1989 to 2020, which are draped above the stairways leading to the reading area. “It’s a pity that it will be closed soon,” said a visitor to the store surnamed Lin, adding that the store has become a part of many people’s lives in Taipei. With the store’s scheduled closure, Eslite plans to find another branch to continue the around-the-clock business, which is expected to be announced in April next year.