Home Science They find strong signs of ancient life on Mars

They find strong signs of ancient life on Mars

There is evidence of complex organic molecules from three billion years ago in sedimentary rocks near the surface.

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NASA Missions to Mars
NASA Missions to Mars

There is an interesting hypothesis (never proven) for decades by astrobiologists, and is the one that states that life was formed on Mars much earlier than on Earth and that in fact was not formed on our planet, but ” He emigrated “from one neighboring planet to another.

The existence of life on Mars has never been proven, today, a giant “fossil”. But it may be that millions of years ago this red planet possessed geological processes similar to those that today make life possible on Earth and thus harbor life of different natures. Maybe even our own ancestors.

These are mere hypotheses, but they may not be too far from reality, according to NASA’s latest and most exciting finding: the Curiosity explorer  has found new organic evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggest that the planet could have sustained ancient life, according to explains in a statement.

Although they are not necessarily proofs of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions that explore the surface and subsoil of the planet.

The new findings are summarized as: “resistant” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in methane levels in the atmosphere.

Let’s look carefully at what the new tests consist of and what they entail.

Existence of simple organic molecules

A series of simple organic molecules has been found, such as benzene, propane or thiophene; thiophene is especially important, because it has a molecule of sulfur in its structure. This reveals that it was part of a much larger and older molecule.

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Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and may also include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. Although they are commonly associated with life, organic molecules can also be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life, although it is very likely, as we say, that these simple molecules will one day have formed more complex organic molecules.

Methane in cyclic quantities

The next discovery that has been made has to do with the atmosphere and with a key organic hydrocarbon, methane. The amount of methane is cyclical on Mars, that is, its amount is much higher in summer and decreases in winter. In particular, in summer there are three times more methane on Mars than in winter. Why?

What could be causing this increase in methane in the Martian summer? Will it be life? It can be due to complex geological processes. But it would also be possible that there are living microbes under the rocks of Mars.

To determine the origin, it is necessary to do more studies and send more missions. And this, the researchers have it very clear.

“These new findings encourage us to stay the course and keep looking for evidence of life,” according to Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Directorate of Scientific Mission at NASA headquarters in Washington. “I am confident that our current and planned missions will unlock even more impressive discoveries on the red planet.”

” Curiosity  has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” says Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, lead author of the scientific article explaining these findings, published in  Science. “Whether it has a record of ancient life, has been food for life or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials contains chemical clues about conditions and planetary processes.”

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In addition, although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that, in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water, an essential ingredient for life as we know it, to clump on the surface. Curiosity data reveal that billions of years ago, a lake of water within Gale Crater contained all the necessary ingredients for life, including chemical components and energy sources.

“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space, both radiation and aggressive chemicals decompose organic matter,” explains Eigenbrode. “Finding ancient organic molecules in the first five centimeters of rock that were deposited when Mars could have been habitable is a good omen for us to learn the history of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will deepen further.”

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