NASA finds ‘ancient organic material’ on Mars, continues search despite Doom’s warnings

08 Junio, 2018, 02:22 | Author: Enrique Watson
  • NASA news conference Mars announcement

NASA's hyped-up announcement concerning new discoveries on Mars did not disappoint as the space agency reports it has found "ancient organic matter" and "mysterious methane" on the planet.

Jennifer Eigenbrode, an astrobiologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who led the organics study, said she's intrigued by the possibility that life might have existed and adapted on Mars.

A NASA rover has detected a bonanza of organic compounds on the surface of Mars and seasonal fluctuations of atmospheric methane in findings released on Thursday that mark some of the strongest evidence ever that Earth's neighbour may have harboured life. Organic matter can be one of several things: a record detailing ancient life, a food source for life or something that exists in the place of life.

Curiosity also has confirmed seasonal increases of methane in the Martian atmosphere. It previously found hints of methane and organic compounds, but these findings are the best evidence yet. "We also don't know if that methane was created from rock chemistry or it was created by microbes". The Viking Project was the first USA mission to safely land spacecraft on the Martian surface, as well as send back images. "That doesn't mean life, but organic compounds are the building blocks of life", he added.

Finding organic compounds - which are substances that contain carbon and are considered necessary components of life - in 3.5-billion-year-old rocks on Mars is a big deal, ten Kate told Live Science, and so is the discovery of the seasonal methane (CH4) variation in the atmosphere.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington, said: "With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life".

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Dr Webster is also awaiting results from the current ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) mission, which is orbiting the Red Planet, sniffing methane. "Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter", Eigenbrode continued. "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".

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

Three Mars years' worth of data shows that along with spikes in methane, levels swing between 0.24 and 0.65 parts per billion, peaking in the northern hemisphere summer. The methane could even be trapped in water-based crystals beneath the surface. This mudstone gradually formed billions of years ago from silt that accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake.

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

NASA also has another rover in the works with its Mars 2020 mission, which plans to drill cores and set them aside for a possible future pickup and return to Earth. The host of the session, assistant director of science for communications in NASA's Planetary Science Division Michelle Thaller, began by clearing up any rumors that the agency would announce that they had found alien life.

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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