Home Science Possible Organic Compounds Have Been Found In Martian Crater Rocks

Possible Organic Compounds Have Been Found In Martian Crater Rocks

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The SHERLOC instrument on Mars 2020: A close-up view of the engineering model for SHERLOC, a Raman and Luminescence Scan of Habitable Environments for Organics and Chemicals, one of the instruments on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A study published in Science 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. became. These rocks also contain evidence consistent with the presence of organic compounds.

The existence of organic compounds (compounds with carbon-hydrogen bonds) is not direct evidence of life. These compounds can 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. “We hope that one day we will be able to bring these samples back to Earth to examine possible evidence for water and organic matter, and to see if conditions were right for life in the early history of Mars. I have.”

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 expands, it rapidly decelerates and deposits the sediment it is carrying, trapping and preserving any microorganisms 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 expected to find sedimentary rocks. But when the rover landed there, some researchers found mineral-bearing igneous rock (cooled magma) at the crater floor that documented not only igneous processes but also significant contact with water. surprised.

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 can coexist with minerals are sherlockor Raman and luminescence habitable environment scanning devices for organics and chemicals.

Mounted on the rover’s robotic arm, SHERLOC uses specific types of fluorescence to search for organic compounds, how they are distributed within materials, and how they are stored. It is equipped with many tools, such as a Raman spectrometer that provides insight into at that place.

Co-author of the paper, Bethany Ehlmann, professor of planetary science and deputy 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.

space biology

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