Examining images and data from the Perseverance rover, researchers found evidence of the presence of organic molecules on Mars. This discovery could shed light on Mars’ past.
Examining images and data from the Perseverance rover on Mars, researchers have found evidence of organic molecules in the planet’s Jezero Crater, potentially providing evidence about the planet’s carbon cycles and its ability to host life.
While the findings don’t conclusively prove that Mars was once home to life, it does point to surprisingly complex organic conditions for “the basic building blocks of life” in Earth’s neighbor.
Mars was once habitable
With this discovery, “Was there life on Mars as we know it?” The question is not answered, but it is pointed out that the conditions necessary for life once existed.
Perseverance, the first vehicle to discover Jezero Crater, has been exploring the area since February 2021. Researchers believe the basin was once home to an ancient lake, including a delta from a river that flowed into it. This is one of the regions most likely to reveal the remains of life on Mars.
Organic molecules such as those observed at Jezero Crater contain carbon and often hydrogen atoms. They are essential components of life as we know it on Earth, but they can also evolve abiologically. Joseph Razzell Hollis, a postdoctoral researcher at the London Museum of Natural History, said in a statement: “It’s an exciting tip for astrobiologists, as they are often thought of as the building blocks of life. More importantly, they can be formed by processes unrelated to life as we know it, and therefore organic molecules, It is not evidence of life in and of itself without sufficient extra evidence that cannot be explained by non-biological – or abiotic – processes.” said.
How was organic matter discovered?
NASA’s Perseverance rover observed the compounds using the SHERLOC instrument, which maps organic molecules and minerals on rock surfaces. It was stated that the presence of organic matter in all ten targets observed at the crater floor was an important finding. Now that the researchers have observed the molecules, they will need to take a closer look at them in laboratories on Earth to come to more conclusions about their origin. The authors of the study, published in Nature, state that the collected samples should be sent to Earth for in-depth examination.
For this, the MSR mission, which is not expected to launch from Earth until at least the end of the 2020s, will have to wait. If life exists in Jezero Crater, scientists think it’s likely to be found in a river delta on the crater’s western rim. That’s because fossilized microbial mats called stromatolites, 3.5 billion years old, which are the oldest signs of life on Earth, appear in similar shallows. The water that has flowed into Jezero for at least a million years, and the organic molecules found on the crater’s floor, may have created a well-suited environment for life as we know it.