(ORDO NEWS) — Despite being on the Red Planet for almost a decade, NASA’s Curiosity rover is still making exciting discoveries , and the latest one is a real miracle.
According to a NASA statement , highly “intriguing” carbon signatures were found in samples taken by the Curiosity rover that could be “associated with biological processes.” In other words, we have yet another circumstantial, albeit unlikely, evidence of life on Mars .
The corresponding conclusions were made after studying 30 samples of drilled rocks, mostly powder, that were collected by the rover between 2012 and 2021. Various organic molecules associated with life here on Earth have been found in Martian samples , including isotopes of carbon-12, which are used by terrestrial organisms for food metabolism or photosynthesis.
A detailed study was published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Curiosity in search of Martian life
A curious theory is that ancient bacteria could release methane into the atmosphere. There, ultraviolet rays from the sun turned it into more complex molecules, which were brought to the surface by rain, where they were preserved in the rock.
“On Earth, the processes that generate the ‘carbon signal’ that we found on Mars are biological in origin,” said Christopher House, lead author of the study at Pennsylvania State University.
However, scientists are far from calling this discovery the final proof of the existence of Martian life.
“We’re finding enticingly interesting things on Mars, but we really need more evidence to say we’ve found life there,” said Paul Mahaffy, now retired principal data scientist for Curiosity’s Martian Sample Analysis (SAM) instrument.
Rule out any other explanation
“So we’re looking at what else could have caused the carbon signature we’re seeing, if not life,” Mahaffy added.
A major part of this process is to be open-minded and accept that the carbon signatures that indicate the presence of life on Earth may be of non-biological origin on Mars.
“A huge part of the carbon cycle on Earth is associated with life, and because of life on Earth, there is a part of the carbon cycle,” said Andrew Steele, a researcher on the Curiosity team at the Carnegie Institute of Science.
“The hardest thing is to let go of the Earth and let go of the prejudice that we have [the carbon signature indicates the presence of life] and really try to get into the basic chemistry, physics and ecological processes on Mars. We need to open our minds and think outside the box,” said Jennifer Eigen road, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
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