NASA's Curiosity rover discovers organic matter on Mars

08 June, 2018, 02:30 | Author: Grady King
  • What has Nasa found on Mars? Alien life? Watch announcement livestream here

"If there are no organics, we can pretty much forget about there being life or ever having been life on Mars", says Dr. Weintraub.

"The question of whether life might have originated or existed on Mars is a lot more opportune now that we know that organic molecules were present on its surface at that time". Organics are the building blocks of all life on Earth, though they can also come from non-living sources. Organic matter can be one of several things: a record detailing ancient life, a food source for life or something that exists in the place of life.

In the second paper, scientists describe the discovery of seasonal variations in methane in the Martian atmosphere over the course of nearly three Mars years, which is almost six Earth years.

"With this new data, we again can not rule out microbial activity as a potential source", Webster said.

"Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper". Hints have been found before, but this is the best evidence yet.

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"We don't know, but these results tell us we are on the right track"'.

The two studies appear in the journal Science. The fact that similar molecules were also present at this new site suggests that this kind of organic material is present in abundance. If there was, then that life would have left behind organic molecules when it decayed. "And what it does, it gives us a key to unlocking the mysteries associated with Mars methane because now we have something to test our models and our understanding against".

What they claimed they had discovered was a fossilised micro-organism in a Martian meteorite, which they argued was evidence that there has once been life on the Red Planet.

"This is a significant breakthrough because it means there are organic materials preserved in some of the harshest environments on Mars", said lead author of one of two studies in Science, Jennifer Eigenbrode, an astrobiologist at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center.

Finding organic compounds - which are substances that contain carbon and are considered necessary components of life - in 3.5-billion-year-old rocks on Mars is a big deal, ten Kate told Live Science, and so is the discovery of the seasonal methane (CH4) variation in the atmosphere. The 2020 rover will include an advanced spectrometer to scan for organic molecules.

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Just a couple of weeks ago, NASA announced that Curiosity had successfully drilled a hole using this new technique, and its handlers were excited that the rover could get back to work. The methane could even be trapped in water-based crystals beneath the surface.

This is apparent evidence of a large lake when ancient Mars was warmer and wetter than it is today.

"It could be from rock processes", processes that have been going on during the billions of years since Mars formed.

That could even be happening beneath the surface now, the researchers said.

All of the outside sources I spoke with said it's important to be skeptical about claims of life, extinct or otherwise, on the Red Planet. Its two-year mission will explore Mars to see if it's "geologically alive", or active below the surface.

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