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Organic Molecules and Methane Discovered on Mars

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 06:21PM
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Humanity has long wondered if there is more life than we what we know on Earth somewhere in the Universe. The first place we look is to our nearest neighbors, the other planets and many moons in the Solar System, with Mars receive special focus. Though it is not capable of supporting life today, there is evidence it could have in the past, and now the Curiosity rover has discovered organic molecules that may suggest there were areas that could have enabled life to exist.

In the mudstone that formed billions of years ago at the bottom of a lake, Curiosity discovered organic molecules, including thiophenes, benzene, toluene, and small carbon chains like propane or butane. Also, thanks to the longevity of the Curiosity rover, scientists have been able to observe a 'breathing' of methane in the Martian atmosphere, with the amount increasing in the summer and reducing in the winter.

While neither of these discoveries are direct indications of there having been life on Mars, the scientists are taking them as good signs to continue digging. The molecules in the mudstone could have once enabled life to form in lakes when Mars still had liquid water on its surface and the methane could have been produced by life. Methane is also produced by non-biological sources though, and while those organic molecules could have enabled life to form they also might not have. Those molecules are still very interesting though, because the radiation and chemicals found on the surface of the red planet will destroy organic molecules, so these somehow survived and did so in the top five centimeters of the surface. Altogether, the scientists take this as evidence to continue their search for life with current and future missions to Mars.

Source: NASA



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