NASA’s Curiosity rover finds organic molecules on Mars
NASA’s Curiosity rover finds organic molecules on Mars
What has Nasa found on Mars? Alien life? Watch announcement livestream here
08 June, 2018, 02:21
That leaves open the possibility that microorganisms once populated our planetary neighbour and still might.
No, NASA hasn't discovered life on Mars yet-but a new result makes it seem like maybe, at some point in the planet's history, the conditions were ripe for some extraterrestrial beings.
The Mars Curiosity rover is sniffing methane in the Martian air but NASA researchers suspect that the distinctive gas-often a sign of life on Earth-may be leaking from buried deposits and not from microbes living on the Red Planet today, space agency scientists said Thursday.
"The detection of organic molecules and methane on Mars has far-ranging implications in light of potential past life on Mars", said Kate.
The discoveries were found using the US space agency's Curiosity Mars Rover, which has been studying the Red Planet's surface since it first landed in 2012.
And while methane had previously been found in Mars' atmosphere in "large, unpredictable plumes", NASA said it has now found methane levels that follow seasonal trend changes with more methane appearing in warm summer months before dropping in the winter. That's not to say there are no non-biological sources, but on our world they're swamped by cow farts and belching bacteria.
The surface of Mars may be inhospitable today, but there is strong evidence that the Martian climate once accommodated liquid water - which, as most of you will know, is one of the key components to life - to pool at the surface. While organics were discovered by the rover earlier, the age and variety of the newly analyzed samples strengthen the case for a habitable environment in the past. "Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter". The 2020 rover will include an advanced spectrometer to scan for organic molecules. This is the most compelling evidence yet that this dry planet once held lakes filled with carbon-based compounds capable of sustaining life.
On Mars, organic molecules could have been produced by some form of either present or past lifeforms.
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 new results represent the longest systematic record of atmospheric methane, with measurements taken regularly over five years.
"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".
A French-built instrument revealed "several organic molecules and volatiles reminiscent of organic-rich sedimentary rock found on Earth, including: thiophene, 2- and 3-methylthiophenes, methanethiol, and dimethylsulfide", said the Science report.
"We have no proof that the methane is formed biologically, but we can not rule it out, even with this new data set", Webster said. And this discovery ushers in a new phase in the search for life on Mars.
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.
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) spacecraft effectively ruled out cosmic origins following its analysis of the dust left after a close encounter with the comet Siding Spring in 2014. I want to know their story.
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