January 26, 2023

The Search for Life on Mars: Organic Molecules in Martian Meteorite Not From Aliens

The Allan Hills 84001 meteorite courtesy of NASA/JSC/Stanford University Credit: Courtesy of NASA/JSC/Stanford University.
Martian meteorites organic products origin not biological, formed by geochemical interactions in between water and rock.
The search for life on Mars can teach us about the reactions that caused the foundation of life on early Earth.
Organic particles found in a meteorite that sped to Earth from Mars were manufactured during interactions in between water and rocks that happened on the Red Planet about 4 billion years ago, according to brand-new analysis led by Carnegies Andrew Steele and released by Science.

The meteorite, called Allan Hills (ALH) 84001, was discovered in the Antarctic in 1984 and is considered one of the earliest recognized projectiles to reach Earth from Mars.
” Analyzing the origin of the meteorites minerals can function as a window to expose both the geochemical processes taking place early in Earths history and Mars prospective for habitability,” described Steele, who has actually done substantial research study on natural material in Martian meteorites and is a member of both the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers science groups.
Organic particles consist of carbon and hydrogen, and sometimes include oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and other aspects. Organic compounds are commonly associated with life, although they can be developed by non-biological processes also, which are referred to as abiotic organic chemistry.
Photo of the outside surface area of Martian meteorite ALH84001. The cube is 1 cm. Credit: NASA
For many years, researchers have discussed the origin story for the natural carbon found in the Allan Hills 84001 meteorite, with possibilities consisting of numerous abiotic procedure associated with volcanic activity, impact events on Mars, or hydrological exposure, along with potentially the remnants of ancient life kinds on Mars or contamination from its crash landing in the world.
The Steele-led group, which likewise consisted of Carnegies Larry Nittler, Jianhua Wang, Pamela Conrad, Suzy Vitale, and Vincent Riggi in addition to scientists from GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Free University of Berlin, NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA Ames Research Center, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, used a range of advanced sample preparation and analysis techniques– including co-located nanoscale imaging, isotopic analysis, and spectroscopy– to reveal the origin of organic particles in the Allan Hills 84001 meteorite.
They found evidence of water-rock interactions comparable to those that happen on Earth. The samples show that the Martian rocks experienced 2 important geochemical processes. One, called serpentinization, occurs when iron- or magnesium-rich igneous rocks chemically interact with flowing water, changing their mineralogy and producing hydrogen at the same time. The other, called carbonization, involves interaction between rocks and a little acidic water consisting of liquified carbon dioxide and leads to the development of carbonate minerals.
A mosaic of Mars made up of 102 Viking Orbiter images. Credit: Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
It is unclear whether these processes were induced by surrounding aqueous conditions concurrently or sequentially, but the proof indicates that the interactions in between water and rocks did not happen over a prolonged period. What appears, nevertheless, is that the reactions produced natural material from the reduction of carbon dioxide.
These mineralogical functions are uncommon in Martian meteorites, and while carbonation and serpentinization have actually been displayed in orbital studies of Mars and carbonation has actually been discovered in other, less-ancient, Martian meteorites, this is the very first circumstances of these procedures occurring in samples from ancient Mars. Organic particles have been detected by Steele in other Martian meteorites and from his work with the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) team on the Curiosity rover, indicating that abiotic synthesis of organic particles has actually belonged of Martian geochemistry for much of the planets history.
” These kinds of non-biological, geological reactions are responsible for a pool of organic carbon compounds from which life could have evolved and represent a background signal that should be taken into factor to consider when browsing for evidence of previous life on Mars,” Steele concluded. “Furthermore, if these reactions occurred on ancient Mars, they should have taken place on ancient Earth, and could possibly describe the outcomes from Saturns moon Enceladus.
Recommendation: “Organic synthesis related to serpentinization and carbonation on early Mars” 13 January 2022, Science.DOI: 10.1126/ science.abg7905.
The United States Antarctic meteorite samples were recovered by the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program, which has actually been funded by NSF and NASA and identified and curated by the Department of Mineral Sciences of the Smithsonian Institution and the Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation Office at NASA Johnson Space Center, respectively.
This work was moneyed by NASA, Carnegies Earth and Planets Laboratory, and the Helmholtz Recruiting Initiative program.

Photograph of the outside surface area of Martian meteorite ALH84001. They found evidence of water-rock interactions comparable to those that occur on Earth.” These kinds of non-biological, geological reactions are responsible for a pool of natural carbon compounds from which life could have developed and represent a background signal that must be taken into consideration when browsing for proof of past life on Mars,” Steele concluded. “Furthermore, if these reactions happened on ancient Mars, they must have happened on ancient Earth, and could possibly discuss the results from Saturns moon Enceladus. All that is required for this type of organic synthesis is for a salt water that consists of liquified carbon dioxide to percolate through igneous rocks.

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