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giftedviz.com June 21, 2018


NASA Finds Concentrated Batch Of Organic Molecules On Mars

08 June 2018, 09:28 | Ross Houston

What has Nasa found on Mars? Alien life? Watch announcement livestream here

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NASA will use both these discoveries to inform the design of its upcoming Mars 2020 rover.

"The closer we look, the more we see that Mars is a complex, dynamic planet that - particularly early in its history - was more conducive to life than we might have previously imagined", said Williford, who was not involved in either study. This new discovery of old organics strengthens that possibility and offers new insights into how things preserve in Mars rock, Grinspoon says.

Nasa's Curiosity rover has discovered organic matter on Mars, the agency has announced in a press conference.

The Curiosity rover has lasted three times as long as it was meant to and is still going, which helped with the study of seasonal methane cycles.

The facility is hosting 10 university teams Thursday for an exercise on extracting water from simulated Martian subsurface ice.

"What we have detected is what we would expect from a sample from an ancient lake environment on Earth", said Eigenbrode, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

NASA's Curiosity rover has uncovered organic material in an ancient lakebed and confirmed a seasonal cycle of methane - offering the strongest evidence yet of potential life, past or even present, on the Red Planet.

It should take methane several hundred years to break apart in the presence of UV light, but that's not what happened on Mars. Methane is quickly broken down by radiation, so it must be replenished by some source on the planet.

Methane, the simplest organic molecule, ranges "between 0.24 to 0.65 parts per billion, peaking near the end of summer in the Northern hemisphere", said the report, based on three years of data.

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And the seasonal methane pulse is perhaps, maybe, possibly - but far, far from certainly - the sort of signal Curiosity might detect if life did form back then and was still around somewhere, ten Kate said. "The long duration has allowed us to see the patterns in this seasonal 'breathing'".

Q: What could be the possible sources for these organic molecules, biological or otherwise? "Biological, geological and meteoritic sources are all possible", they wrote. Yet when NASA's twin Viking probes landed on Mars in 1976, their studies suggested something startling: Martian soil, it seemed, contained less carbon than lifeless lunar rocks.

These might explain the increase in molecules, but they do still leave its rapid vanishing act wanting of an explanation.

This work was funded by NASA's Mars Exploration Program for the agency's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. About 95 percent of the methane in Earth's atmosphere is produced from biological activity, though the scientists said it is too soon to know if the Martian methane also is related to life.

Previous research has suggested the temperatures required could be found at the poles in their respective winter seasons. The crystals may have obtained methane from ancient forms of life. Only a few of the organic molecules, sulfur-bearing carbon rings called thiophenes, were abundant enough to be detected directly, Eigenbrode says.

He and his colleagues think the methane is coming from underground.

So, just where did the methane come from in the first place?

That may be because numerous compounds, such as thiophene, methanethiol and dimethyl sulfide, had sulfur atoms in their molecular structure - which would strengthen the relatively fragile organic molecules, allowing them to survive the radiation bombarding the planet's surface for so long.



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