Thursday, 16 August, 2018

NASA invites a live discussion about Findings by Curiosity rover on Thursday

NASA finds organic matter on Mars NASA invites a live discussion about Findings by Curiosity rover on Thursday
Sandra Phillips | 10 June, 2018, 21:26

A new study published in Science on Thursday presents the first conclusive evidence for large organic molecules on the surface of Mars, a pursuit that began with NASA's Viking landers in the 1970s.

NASA's Curiosity Rover has done a discovery on the surface of Mars by finding an organic particle.

The organic matter preserved on Mars suggests the planet could once have been home to life forms and was discovered by drilling deep into the planet's Gale crater.

The breakthrough discovery was made with the help of NASA's Curiosity rover, which was charged with a mission to explore the Gale Crater and Martian geology and climate.

While such organic compounds could have been produced by ancient life - or could have provided a food source for ancient organisms - it is also possible that the molecules were created in the complete absence of life. Even if in June 2013 and January 2014 the robot Nasa had already been able to find traces of methane, this is the first time that organic molecules have been detected.

"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. During the summer months, levels of the gas detected by Curiosity rose to about 0.7 parts per billion; in winter, they fell to roughly half that. Thiophenes are the simplest sulphur-containing aromatic compounds (aromatic refers to how the molecules are bonded together) and it occurs with benzene in coal tar.

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"What the organic detections in the rock do is to add to the story of habitability".

It's unclear exactly what we'll learn from the conference, as the space agency has only revealed that it has new "science results" to share with its eager public.

Christopher Webster, an atmospheric science research fellow at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said it is possible existing microbes are contributing to the Martian atmospheric methane, said a report by news agency Reuters.

To determine whether the methane is biological, Webster said, scientists can weigh the kinds of carbon atoms it contains (life prefers the lighter versions).

However, ten Kate says that it is not surprising to find organic matter on Mars because it can not be compared to items like pieces of flesh, dead cells or tufts of grass. It also demonstrates that organic molecules can exist on Mars's surface for billions of years.

Clearly, there are more questions about Mars that need answering. "That means Mars today is not a 'dead planet, ' but somewhere underground there are reactions occurring today that release and absorb an atmospheric gas that is nearly always related to warm water or life on Earth".

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