Possible organic compounds found in Martian crater rocks

Possible organic compounds found in Martian crater rocks

Jezero Crater. Credit: NASA

Study published in Sciences Analyzes of several rocks at the bottom of Jezero Crater on Mars, where the Perseverance rover landed in 2020, reveal a significant interaction between rock and liquid water. These rocks also contain evidence consistent with the presence of organic compounds.

presence of organic compounds (Chemical compounds with carbon-hydrogen bonds) is not direct evidence of life, as these compounds can be created by non-biological processes. A future mission returning the samples to Earth would be needed to determine this.

The study, which was led by researchers at the California Institute of Technology, was conducted by an international team that includes Imperial researchers.

Professor Mark Sefton, from Imperial’s Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering, is a member of the science team that has been involved with the rover’s operations on Mars and considered the implications of the findings. He said: “I hope one day these samples will be returned to Earth so that we can look at evidence Water and potential organic matter, and explore whether conditions were suitable for life in the early history of Mars. “

running water

Perseverance previously found organic compounds in the Jezero Delta. Deltas are fan-shaped geological formations created at the intersection of a river and a lake on the crater rim.

Expedition scientists were particularly interested in the Jezero Delta because such formations can sustain microorganisms. A delta is created when a river that transports fine-grained sediment enters a deeper, slower-moving body of water. Such as river water It spreads, slows suddenly, and the sediment it carries traps and keeps any microorganisms that may be present in the water.

However, the floor of the crater, where the rover landed for safety reasons before traveling to the delta, was more of a mystery. At the bottoms of lakes, researchers expected to find them sedimentary rocks, because water deposits layer after layer of sediment. However, when the rover landed there, some researchers were surprised to find igneous rocks (cooled magma) on the surface. pit floor With the minerals in it that not only recorded pyrotechnic processes but significant contact with water.

These minerals, such as carbonates and salts, require water to circulate in igneous rocks, carving out niches and depositing molten minerals in various areas such as voids and fissures. In some places, the data shows evidence of organic matter within these potentially habitable niches.

Sherlock discovered it

Potential metals and organic compounds found in one location have been detected using SHERLOC, or Surveying Habitable Environments using the Raman & Luminescence Instrument for Organic Matters and Chemicals.

installed on the rover robotic armSHERLOC is equipped with a number of instruments, including a Raman spectrometer that uses a specific type of fluorescence to search for organic compounds We also see how they are distributed in a material, which provides insight into how they are preserved in that location.

“SHERLOC’s compositional microscopy imaging capabilities have really opened up our ability to decipher the chronological order of Mars’ past environments,” said Bethany Ellman, co-author of the paper, professor of planetary sciences, and co-director of the Keck Institute for Space Studies.

As the rover headed toward the delta, it took several samples of water-altered igneous rocks and cached them for a potential future sample return mission. Samples must be returned to Earth and examined in laboratories with advanced equipment in order to finally determine the presence and type of organic matter and whether it has anything to do with life.

more information:
Schiller et al., Hydroalteration Processes at Jezero Crater, Effects of Mars on Organic Geochemistry, Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1126/science.abo5204

Introduction of
Imperial College London

the quote: Possible Organic Compounds Found in Mars Crater Rocks (2022, November 24) Retrieved November 24, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-compounds-mars-crater.html

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