Advertisement
ProteinSimple
ProteinSimple

Signs of Life on Mars?

Tests run on Martian soil samples indicate the presence of organic compounds, but the traces of carbon may or may not have come from once-living things.

By | December 4, 2012

WIKIMEDIA, NASASimple carbon compounds have turned up in soil samples collected from the surface of Mars and analyzed by the NASA rover Curiosity, which is currently inching across the surface of the Red Planet on a mission to find traces of life. NASA scientists made the hotly anticipated announcement at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco yesterday (December 3).

Curiosity's onboard mass spectrometer detected chloromethanes—one carbon atom bonded to one, two, or three chlorine atoms in place of hydrogen. But without further testing, the NASA team that oversees the rover's work on Mars cannot determine whether the simple organic compounds came from the remains of amino acids—which would indicate the presence of organic life at some point in the planet’s history—or from residue from the types of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons commonly embedded in comets and asteroids. Alternatively, the findings could simply be artifacts of the analysis process itself or the result of contamination with Earth chemicals brought along by Curiosity.

"We just don't know if these [compounds] are indigenous to Mars, and it is going to take some time to work through," said mission chief scientist John Grotzinger of Caltech at the meeting.

(Hat tip to USA Today.)

Advertisement

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You

You

Processing...
Processing...

Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Comments

Avatar of: BobD

BobD

Posts: 20

December 4, 2012

My biochemistry may be a little rusty, but why would you expect chloromethane to be a preferred breakdown product of amino acids?  Maybe these are leaks from ancient Martian refrigerators!   :)

Avatar of: Paul Stein

Paul Stein

Posts: 164

December 4, 2012

A much, much simpler explanation can be envisioned.  Methane is ubiquitous throughout the Universe.  With all that solar radiation, chloromethane is most likely a major component of the Martian equivalent of smog.  You heard it here first folks!

Paul Stein

Advertisement
Arbor Assays
Arbor Assays

Popular Now

  1. Antibody Alternatives
    Features Antibody Alternatives

    Nucleic acid aptamers and protein scaffolds could change the way researchers study biological processes and treat disease.

  2. The Mycobiome
    Features The Mycobiome

    The largely overlooked resident fungal community plays a critical role in human health and disease.

  3. Circadian Clock and Aging
    Daily News Circadian Clock and Aging

    Whether a critical circadian clock gene is deleted before or after birth impacts the observed aging-related effects in mice.

  4. Biologist Resigns Amid Sexual Misconduct Probe
Advertisement
Advertisement
Life Technologies