NASA Discovered Unusual Mixture Of Chemicals While Drilling Holes Into Mars

One of the drill holes used to sample sediment in the Gale crater. (NASA/Caltech-JPL/MSSS)
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One of the drill holes used to sample sediment in the Gale crater. (NASA/Caltech-JPL/MSSS)

Highlights

  • Carbon is the basis for all life on Earth, thus finding that on other planets usually excites scientists.
  • The carbon discovered in sediment in the Gale crater throughout a nine-year period from August 2012 to July 2021.

Carbon is the basis for all life on Earth, thus finding that on other planets usually excites scientists. The Curiosity Rover on Mars recently discovered an unusual mix of the chemical element, which may theoretically indicate to the presence of alien life.

According to researchers, it's one of three possible explanations for the carbon discovered in sediment in the Gale crater throughout a nine-year period from August 2012 to July 2021. Curiosity burned a total of 24 powder samples to isolate individual molecules, showing a broad range of carbon 12 and carbon 13 isotope mixes involving the two stable carbon isotopes that can tell how the carbon cycle has altered through time.

The remarkable about these variances include some samples loaded with carbon 13 and others severely depleted is that they point to mechanisms that aren't like those formed by the carbon cycle in the present age.

Geoscientist Christopher House from Pennsylvania State University said the quantities of carbon 12 and carbon 13 in our Solar System are the same as they were when the Solar System was formed. Both present in everything, however although carbon 12 reacts faster than carbon 13, the carbon cycle can be revealed by looking at the relative levels of each in materials.

A large molecular cloud of dust could be one reason for the carbon signals. Each couple of several million years or so, the Solar System passes through one of them, and the cooling effect it causes leaves carbon deposits in its wake. According to the experts, this is a credible situation that requires further investigation.

However, the abiotic (non-biological) conversion of CO2 to organic chemicals like formaldehyde could explain what Curiosity discovered in this scenario, UV radiation could have been the cause. It's something experts have speculated about in the past, but further research is needed to confirm whether or not this is the case.

Meanwhile, biological activity generated those samples when methane was eaten by ancient microbial mats, though they can't assume the same for Mars as it would have originated from various materials and methods than Earth.

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