NASA set to reveal new discovery on Mars by Curiosity rover

Rodiano Bonacci
Giugno 10, 2018

NASA's Curiosity Rover has found large amounts of organic compounds on the surface of Mars and seasonal fluctuations of atmospheric methane in findings that mark some of the strongest evidence yet that Earth's neighbour may have harboured life.

"That the Curiosity rover recovered organics from a drilled mudstone sample is a game changer for Mars life studies". These rocks can be from the ancient lake bed, and these type of rocks may be as old as billions of years, and it was explained by Jen Eigenbrode, and another research scientist at Goddard as a variety of molecules are identified in this discovery.

But National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists emphasized there could be nonbiological explanations for both discoveries made by the Curiosity rover at a site called Gale crater, leaving the issue of Martian life a tantalizing but unanswered question.

The rover also collected information about the varying levels of methane in the atmosphere of Mars.

The Curiosity rover which is now trundling around the Gale Crater has found organic material in samples of mudstone, that once upon a time sat at the bottom of an an ancient lake. It previously found hints of methane and organic compounds, but these findings are the best evidence yet.

Although the media and the scientific community had speculated that NASA would today announce clear evidence of the existence of life on Mars, today's message means only one more step in that direction.

"This is the first time we've seen something repeatable in the methane story, so it offers us a handle in understanding it", said Chris Webster of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, lead author of the second paper. Not exactly, but NASA describes it as a "good sign" in the quest for life on Mars. Methane levels were measured over a period of 4.5 years, which showed an increase of methane during late winter in the southern hemisphere and late summer in the northern hemisphere.

In 2013, SAM detected some organic molecules containing chlorine in rocks at the deepest point in the crater. "Past detections have been so faint that they could be just contamination", the journal said.

But that's not all - Curiosity's data suggests that methane is now being released on a seasonal cycle, though we don't quite understand the timing yet.

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

"There are three possible sources for the organic material", said Jennifer Eigenbrode, the astrobiologist of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland. It's hoped that the chemical would have populated watery surfaces on the planet and thus supported life. "We need to go to places that we think are the most likely places to find it".

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