Organic matter found on Mars in 'significant breakthrough'

NASA Life on Mars NASA discovery

NASA Life on Mars NASA discovery

Big news from Mars today: NASA's Curiosity rover found ancient traces of organic matter embedded in Martian rocks and detected a "seasonal variation" in atmospheric methane on the Red Planet - an annual pulse of the gas, nearly as if something out there were breathing. "It tells us that this ancient environment on Mars could have supported life", Eigenbrode said.

"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". The rover has also detected methane in the Martian atmosphere.

NASA's Curiosity rover has found new science "results" on Mars and the agency will disclose the findings at a press conference that starts at 11.30 pm India time on 7 June. What the study has done, though, is to propel the search for life on Mars higher up the list of global space exploration priorities - giving space agencies ammunition to argue for a coordinated programme of missions to explore the Red Planet. Hints have been found before, but this is the best evidence yet. The fact that similar molecules were also present at this new site suggests that this kind of organic material is present in abundance.

"What the organic detections in the rock do is to add to the story of habitability". Curiosity has detected large organic molecules inside ancient Martian rocks, as well as methane cycles now active on the planet. Now, Curiosity has discovered ancient organics that have been preserved in rocks for billions of years.

Curiosity is a car-side space exploratory vehicle which has been traversing the Red Planet since 2012 to determine if life there ever existed. "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".

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.

Over five years, Curiosity has used its Tunable Laser Spectrometer to measure methane in the atmosphere at the Gale crater.

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"Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules", Eigenbrode said in the release.

Some of the new science instruments included on the next Mars rover include an X-ray spectrometer, ultraviolet laser, excited rings of carbon atoms, and a ground-penetrating radar that will allow the space agency to look under the surface of Mars up to 30 feet deep depending on terrain.

Dr Webster said the data pointed to methane trapped in water-based crystals deep under the planet's surface, which slowly seep to the surface when temperatures rise. She said the discoveries break down some of the strongest arguments put forward by life-on-Mars skeptics, herself included.

Contained below the 3.5 billion-year-old mudstone was a fine-grained sedimentary rock.

"It's coming from sub-surface reservoirs" and then seeping up to the surface, Webster says.

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.

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.

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