Ancient life on Mars – Organic molecule found

Hyperaxion Mar 5, 2020

Thanks to the Curiosity rover, experts have detected traces of thiophene, a substance that usually results from bacterial processes.

An organic molecule known as thiophene was found on Mars, according to a study published in Astrobiology, based on measurements made by the Curiosity spacecraft.

The compound is frequently found in coal, crude oil and white truffles. For scientists, this is quite an indication that there may have been life on the Red Planet.

Astronomers find an organic molecule that suggests that life may have existed on Mars
Astronomers find an organic molecule that suggests that life may have existed on Mars. (Credit: NASA)

Read more: Scientists find extraterrestrial protein in meteorite

This is because this molecule may be the result of some bacterial processes: microorganisms would have facilitated the sulfate reduction process that results in thiophenes. This would have occurred 3 billion years ago, when the planet was even hotter.

“We identified several biological pathways for thiophenes that seem more likely than chemical ones, but we still need proof,” said Dirk Schulze-Makuch, one of the experts, in a statement. “If you find thiophenes on Earth, then you would think they are biological, but on Mars, of course, the bar to prove that has to be quite a bit higher.”

It could be explained by other processes

According to experts, thiophene molecules are composed of two substances important for the existence of life as we know it: they have four carbon atoms and a sulfur atom, arranged in a ring. Still, Schulze-Makuch points out that the formation of the compound can also be explained by other processes.

Meteor impacts provide a possible abiotic explanation, for example, because thiophene can arise through the heating of sulfate. With that in mind, experts intend to continue exploring Martian samples for answers.

“As Carl Sagan said, ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’,” noted Schulze-Makuch. “I think the proof [of this theory] will require sending people to Mars, [making it possible] for an astronaut to look through a microscope and see a microbe moving.”

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