NASA finds ancient organic material, mysterious methane on Mars

Mindy Sparks
June 10, 2018

NASA's Curiosity rover has detected organic compounds on the surface of Mars which offers some of the strongest evidence yet that the Red Planet may once have harboured life.

Kicking off a quest to determine the possibility of life on Mars, the Curiosity rover touched Martian soil in August 2012 and drilled into the red planet in 2014 and 2015. Although scientists say the carbon by no means implies "alien" life, it could be residual of a life form of some sort and is a break-through discovery as the first of its kind ever found.

Humayan is a professor of geochemistry at Florida State Univeristy and on staff at the FSU-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

It's unclear exactly what we'll learn from the conference, as the space agency has only revealed that it has new "science results" to share with its eager public.

Organic molecules containing chlorine were detected on Mars before.

Carnegie's Andrew Steele was a key member of the research team, whose work on this project built off his discovery six years ago of indigenous organic carbon in 10 Martian meteorites.

While the discovery is one of the most tantalising searches yet to indicate that biological processes were (or maybe still are) responsible for these organic materials, it is not definitive proof of life on Mars. The analysis found organic and chemical molecules similar to that are found on the Earth.

The US space agency, however, stressed that this type of particle could have been the food source of a hypothetical microbial life on Mars.

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover snaps a self-portrait at a site called Vera Rubin Ridge on the Martian surface in this image obtained on Friday. — Reuters
NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover snaps a self-portrait at a site called Vera Rubin Ridge on the Martian surface in this image obtained on Friday. — Reuters

"While we don't know the source of the material, the wonderful consistency of the results makes me think we have a slam-dunk signal for organics on Mars", Jennifer Eigenbrode, a biogeochemist at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, explained.

While this still does prove the existence of extraterrestrial life, it certainly is a step in the direction of potential life on Mars billions of years ago. "We are on the right track!"

In this regard, Jennifer Eigenbrode, of NASA's Goddard Space Center in Maryland (USA), said finding organic molecules in the first five centimeters of rock deposited when Mars could have been habitable, "is a good omen for future missions that will deepen more".

More recently, at the beginning of 2018, the Curiosity was thought to have found evidence of bioturbation, which is what occurs when organisms living in sediments leave an imprint on their structure.

Curiosity discovered Methane in the atmosphere of Mars that displayed a "tenfold spike" on previous findings.

"What the organic detections in the rock do is to add to the story of habitability".

The findings were also remarkable in that they showed that organic material can be preserved for billions of years on the harsh Martian surface.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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