NASA finds organic matter on Mars | Science&Technology

NASA finds organic matter on Mars | Science&Technology

NASA finds organic matter on Mars | Science&Technology

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.

The unmanned Curiosity rover has also found increasing evidence for seasonal variations of methane on Mars, indicating the source of the gas is likely the planet itself, or possibly its subsurface water. "Curiosity has shown that Gale Crater was habitable around 3.5 billion years ago, with conditions comparable to those on the early Earth, where life evolved around that time".

Also NASA has found methane in the Martian atmosphere.

Researchers can not yet say whether their discovery stems from life or a more mundane geological process.

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The discovery includes a rock which was drilled by Rover during the year 2014 and 2015. Living things produce numerous organic molecules and therefore, the finding of traces of organic matter on Mars suggests that there are conditions that may allow for the formation of life on the planet.

The third theory we've all been wanting to prove it's true is that methane could be created by life on Mars.

"This is the first time we've seen something repeatable in the methane story, so it offers us a handle in understanding it", said Chris Webster of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, lead author of the second paper.

"We know that on Earth microorganisms eat all kinds of organic products, it is a source of valuable food for them", said Eigenbrode. On Thursday scientists said the rover found potential building blocks of life in an ancient lakebed and confirmed seasonal increases in atmospheric methane.

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NASA associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen says the agency wants to keep searching for signs of life on Mars. "We were just blown away", he said.

He and his colleagues think the methane is coming from underground. Seasonal peaks of methane are caused by the change of temperature, the hotter it is, the more of it is being released into the atmosphere.

In any case, however, the molecules may provide key information to scientists in their continuing search for life on Mars, since "All life that we know of is based on organic molecules", Eigenbrode explained. The key samples in the latest findings came from a spot 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) away. So NASA astrobiologist Jennifer Eigenbrode at the Goddard Space Flight Center spent the intervening years figuring out which signals were clearly junk and removing them. "But it gave us a lot of anticipation that, if we can find these molecules here, perhaps we're going to come across other layers of rock that have more organics in them".

"I'm equally as fascinated by the idea that life never got started on Mars in the first place".

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Clearly, there are more questions about Mars that need answering.

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