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Possible organic compounds found in Mars crater rocks

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Jezero Crater. Credit: NASA

Research published in chemistry analyzed rocks found at the bottom of Jezero Crater on Mars, where the Perseverance rover landed in 2020, revealing important interactions between rocks and liquid water. These rocks also contain evidence consistent with the presence of organic compounds.

Presence of organic compounds (Chemical substances with carbon–hydrogen bond) are not direct evidence of life, as these compounds may be produced by non-biological processes. Future missions returning samples to Earth will be needed to determine this.

Led by researchers from the California Institute of Technology, the study was conducted by an international team that included researchers from Empire.

Professor Mark Septon of Imperial’s Department of Geosciences and Engineering is a member of the scientific team that participated in the rover operations on Mars and considered the implications of the results. He said: “I hope that one day these samples will be brought back to Earth and we will be able to see the evidence. water Examine possible organic matter and see if conditions were right for life in Mars’ early history. ”

moving water

Perseverance previously discovered organic compounds in Jezero’s delta. Deltas are fan-shaped formations created at the intersection of rivers and lakes at the edge of craters.

Mission scientists were particularly interested in Jezero Delta. Because such formations can preserve microorganisms. Deltas are created when rivers carrying fine-grained sediments enter deeper, slower-moving bodies of water.As river water As it spreads, it decelerates sharply and deposits the sediment it is carrying, trapping and preserving any microbes that may be present in the water.

But the bottom of the crater where the rover landed before moving to the delta for safety reasons was more of a mystery. At the bottom of the lake, researchers sedimentary rock, because water deposits layer after layer of sediment. But when the rover landed there, some researchers were surprised to find igneous rock (cold magma). crater floor Contains minerals documenting significant contact with water as well as igneous processes.

These minerals, such as carbonates and salts, require water to circulate within the igneous rock, carving out niches and depositing dissolved minerals in various areas such as voids and fissures. Data show evidence of organic matter within these potentially habitable niches.

Discovered by Sherloc

Organic compounds that may coexist with minerals were discovered using SHERLOC, or Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals.

mounted on the rover robot armSHHERLOC is equipped with many tools, such as a Raman spectrometer that searches using specific types of fluorescence. organic compound We also see how they are distributed within the material, providing insight into how they were preserved at that location.

Co-author of the paper, Bethany Ehlmann, professor of planetary science and associate director of the Keck Space Institute, said: environment of the past. ”

As the rover rolled toward the delta, it took several water-altered igneous rock samples and cached them for possible future sample return missions. They must be tested in well-equipped laboratories to definitively determine the presence and types of organic matter and whether they are related to life.

For more information:
Eva L. Scheller et al., Water alteration process in Jezero crater, Mars-implications for Organic geochemistry, chemistry (2022). DOI: 10.1126/science.abo5204

Quote: Possible Organic Compounds Found in Mars Crater Rocks (24 Nov 2022) from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-compounds-mars-crater.html 24 Nov 2022 acquisition

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