Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

Mars Rover Curiosity has found organic molecules, methane on Mars

Curiosity tests a new way to drill on Mars What has Nasa found on Mars? Alien life? Watch announcement livestream here
Sandy Nunez | 08 June, 2018, 07:20

'I'm confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet'.

NASA says, 'The media and public are invited to ask questions during a live discussion at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 7, on new science results from NASA's Mars Curiosity rover'. Alas, still no aliens: the rover found some rocks-some billion-year-old rocks-containing "ancient organic material".

And while methane had previously been found in Mars' atmosphere in "large, unpredictable plumes", NASA said it has now found methane levels that follow seasonal trend changes with more methane appearing in warm summer months before dropping in the winter.

They don't exactly roll off the tongue, but researchers believe that these are fragments of larger molecules that were present on Mars billions of years ago.

The rock fragments were heated to more than 900 degrees Fahrenheit, and the rover's instruments looked at the molecules that wafted away at the high temperatures.

"The detection of organic molecules and methane on Mars has far-ranging implications in light of potential past life on Mars", she said. "A rigorous approach based on available evidence starts with the scientifically responsible default explanation that Mars is and always has been lifeless", Fries says.

Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements.

"Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules", Eigenbrode said in the release.

What Has NASA's Curiosity Found on Mars?
The event can be streamed live on NASA's online TV channel , Facebook Live , Twitch TV , Ustream , Youtube , and Periscope . This week, those rock samples were successfully delivered to and processed by the rover's mineralogy lab.

Organic molecules are the basic building blocks of life - and they are also left behind by living organisms.

While it could be produced by microorganisms under the surface of Mars, it could also be produced by non-biological processes such as chemical reactions in rocks, or the breakdown of organic matter in dust delivered by comets or meteors, by UV radiation.

On Mars, organic molecules could have been produced by some form of either present or past lifeforms. This mudstone gradually formed billions of years ago from silt that accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake. She said the discoveries break down some of the strongest arguments put forward by life-on-Mars skeptics, herself included. And NASA didn't launch another mission to Mars for over a decade. We might find even more evidence in future missions, too. Plus, scientists don't know what the original molecules were before Curiosity heated the rocks to take the measurement, Utrecht University scientist Inge Loes ten Kate, who was not involved with the research, told Gizmodo.

"This is a significant breakthrough because it means there are organic materials preserved in some of the harshest environments on Mars", said lead author of one of two studies in Science, Jennifer Eigenbrode, an astrobiologist at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center.

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

These results also inform scientists' decisions as they work to find answers to questions concerning the possibility of life on Mars. "If you can do this on Mars, imagine what you can do with analytical facilities available to us on Earth", he says.

The team picked up a welter of closely related organic signals reflecting dozens or hundreds of types of small carbon molecules, probably short rings and strands called aromatics and aliphatics, respectively.