Despite its years of service on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity spacecraft continues to make remarkable discoveries. Recently, scientists found something “interesting” in the data collected by the rover. These are the carbon fingerprints they detected in the samples analyzed by curiousity. According to a NASA statement, these signatures could be “related to biological processes.”
As you understand, we are talking here about “possible” evidence of life on Mars. Scientists found it after examining 30 rock samples collected by the probe between 2012 and 2021. They discovered distinctive organic molecules associated with life on Earth. Among these molecules, there were isotopes of carbon 12 used by terrestrial organisms to metabolize food or to carry out photosynthesis.
The study describing the discovery of these molecules was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The origin of molecules
Researchers have a theory regarding the origin of the molecules found on Mars. According to this theory, ancient bacteria could release methane into the atmosphere. Later, ultraviolet rays were able to convert this methane into more complex particles that fall to the ground to keep it in the rock.
According to Christopher House, a Penn State researcher and first author of the study, on Earth, the processes that could have produced this carbon signature detected on Mars are biological.
In the face of this discovery, scientists remain cautious. For them, this is not conclusive evidence of the existence of Martian life.
According to Paul Mahaffey, former principal investigator for Curiosity’s SAM instrument or sample analysis at Mars, there are things on Mars that are very interesting, however, and it may take more evidence to be able to say that life has been identified.
Thus, scientists will now try to find explanations or eliminate those that do not correspond to the discovery. Therefore, you must have an unbiased view of what you see on the ground.
As Jennifer Eigenbrod, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and co-author, explains, the hard part is getting away from Earth and bias, studying the chemical, physical, and environmental basics of Mars. She added that you have to open your mind and think differently.
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