Organic Molecules Discovered on Mars – Possibility of Early Life On Mars
Curiosity Rover Discovered Thiophenes Compounds
Thiophenes are organic compounds found on Earth in crude oil, coal and oddly enough, in the mushroom white truffles that are beloved by wild pigs and epicureans.
Recently, these organic compounds, thiophenes were also discovered on Mars. Their presence on Mars would be consistent with the presence of early life on Mars says Dirk Schulze‑Makuch, Washington State University astrobiologist.
In a new paper published in the journal Astrobiology, the possible pathways for thiophenes’ origins on the red planet were explored by Jacob Heinz and Schulze‑Makuch with the Technische Universität in Berlin. Their work suggests that for the existence of the organic compound in the Martian soil, most likely, a biological process involving bacteria rather than a truffle may have played a role.
There are four carbon atoms and a sulfur atom arranged in a ring in the thiophene molecules and both sulfur and carbon are bio-essential elements. But still, the possibility of non‑biological processes leading to the existence of these compounds on Mars could not be excluded by Schulze‑Makuch and Heinz could.
There is one possible abiotic explanation provided by meteor impacts, througha process that involves a set of compounds being heated to 248 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius) or more called thermochemical sulfate reduction, thiophenes can be created.
When Mars was warmer and wetter more than three billion years ago, a sulfate reduction process could have been facilitated by bacteria which results in thiophenes and this could be the possibility under the biological scenario. Pathways, where bacteria break down thiophenes themselves, are also there.
Many clues are provided by the Curiosity Rover and scientists can only look at the fragments as it uses techniques that break larger molecules up into components.
Rosalind Franklin, the next rover expected to launch in July 2020 should provide further evidence. This rover will use a less destructive analyzing method that will allow for the collection of larger molecules, a Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer, or MOMA.
To look into the carbon and sulfur isotopes, Schulze‑Makuch and Heinz recommend using the data collected by the next rover.
He said, “Organisms would rather use the light isotope variations of the element as it requires less energy given that the organisms are ‘lazy’.”
Schulze‑Makuch says “a telltale signal for life” is provided by the organisms alter the ratios of heavy and light isotopes in the compounds they produce that are substantially different from the ratios found in their building blocks.
However, there may still not be enough evidence to definitively prove there was once or is life on Mars even ifMa the next rover returns this isotopic evidence.
Schulze‑Makuch said, “For extraordinary claims, there are extraordinary evidence demanded. I think we will need to send people there and an astronaut should look through a microscope and see a moving microbe in order to provide solid proof.”
Organic Molecules Discovered on Mars, Curiosity Rover discovered thiophenes – Source