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NASA's Curiosity rover finds organic matter on Mars

Discussion in 'The NF Café' started by Catalyst75, Jun 7, 2018.

  1. Catalyst75 Well-Known Member

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    (CNN)Organic matter has been found on Mars in soil samples taken from 3 billion-year-old mudstone in the Gale crater by the Curiosity rover, NASA announced Thursday. The rover has also detected methane in the Martian atmosphere.
    The search for life outside Earth focuses on the building blocks of life as we know it, which includes organic compounds and molecules -- although these can exist without life. Organic matter can be one of several things: a record detailing ancient life, a food source for life or something that exists in the place of life.
    No matter its purpose, these work as "chemical clues" for researchers about Mars.
    Methane is considered the simplest organic molecule. It's present in other places in our solar system that could host life, like Saturn and Jupiter's moons Enceladus, Europa and Titan. And if life does exist elsewhere, it may be very different or even form differently from how we understand life on Earth.
    The new findings are also detailed in two studies published Thursday in the journal Science. Together, the researchers believe these findings to be "breakthroughs in astrobiology."
    "We have greatly expanded our search for organic compounds, which is fundamental in the search for life," said Paul Mahaffy, study author and director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
    The two studies build on and advance smaller detections of atmospheric methane and ancient organic compounds on Mars. Those detections either caused debate or lacked the context for understanding, the researchers said.
    But Curiosity's data are providing a clearer and more conclusive picture of the conditions and processes on Mars -- and what it may have been like on the Red Planet billions of years ago, when conditions were more suitable for life.
    "With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. "I'm confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet."

    Finding clues beneath the surface
    We've been exploring the surface of Mars in hopes of understanding the Red Planet since NASA's Viking mission in the 1970s. The Viking Project was the first US mission to safely land spacecraft on the Martian surface, as well as send back images.
    And although hopes were high that the two landers and their instruments would detect signs of life or organic compounds in samples taken from the surface, that didn't happen.
    Decades later, Viking helped inspire the instruments on today's Martian rovers. And Curiosity dug a little deeper beneath the surface, which is blasted with radiation, to see what stories the soil had to tell.
    Curiosity sampled sites by drilling five centimeters below the surface in the Gale crater, which is where the rover landed in 2012. The 96-mile crater, named for Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale, was most likely formed by meteor impact between 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago. It likely held a lake, and now includes a mountain.
    The rover was able to heat the samples to between 932 and 1508 degrees Fahrenheit and study the organic molecules released through gas analysis. The organic molecules and volatiles, comparable to samples of sedimentary rock rich in organics on Earth, included thiopene, methylthiophenes methanethiol and dimethylsulfide.
    They don't exactly roll off the tongue, but researchers believe that these are fragments of larger molecules that were present on Mars billions of years ago. And the high amount of sulfur in the samples is most likely how they've lasted so long, the researchers said. Drilling beneath the surface, rather than sampling what was on top like Viking did, also helped.
    Potential contaminants were analyzed and accounted for, so the results are the most conclusive yet.
    "The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space," said Jen Eigenbrode, a study author and research scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center. "Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter. Finding ancient organic molecules in the top 5 centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper."

    Methane in the air

    Over five years, Curiosity has used its Tunable Laser Spectrometer to measure methane in the atmosphere at the Gale crater. Before, researchers couldn't understand why the little bit of methane detected in the Martian atmosphere varied. With five years of data from a single location, they now have answers.
    There is a seasonal variation to the methane that repeats, which means the methane is being released from the Martian surface or from reservoirs beneath the surface. The methane could even be trapped in water-based crystals beneath the surface.
    Methane is a strong greenhouse gas, and it could have supported a climate that sustained lakes on Mars. That could even be happening beneath the surface now, the researchers said. The release of methane is an active process on Mars, which could suggest new things about what's unfolding on the Red Planet.
    Detecting this organic molecule in the atmosphere, combined with the finding of organic compounds in the soil, has strong implications about potential life on Mars in its past.
    The Gale Crater was probably habitable 3.5 billion years ago, based on what Curiosity has shown us. Then, the conditions would have been comparable to Earth. This is also when life was evolving on our own planet.
    Knowing that these molecules and compounds were present, then, gives new strength to the idea that life originated or existed on Mars and that more work by the Martian rovers can uncover the past.
    NASA's InSight Lander, launched on May 5, will land on Mars on November 26. Its two-year mission will explore Mars to see if it's "geologically alive," or active below the surface. For example, scientists want to know if it has "Mars quakes." And the Mars 2020 rover, which is expected to launch July 2020, may be able to assist with one day retrieving soil samples from Mars.
    "Are there signs of life on Mars?" asked Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters. "We don't know, but these results tell us we are on the right track."

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    Now this is an amazing find. It is evidence that life can and does exist elsewhere in our universe. I hope I see more evidence and proof of life on Saturn and Jupiter's moons in my lifetime. :)
     
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  2. Benedict Cumberzatch Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon

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    This is absolutely phenomenal. Something people have been talking about for thousands of years, we're actually getting to live the probing of. However, I hope we never find any life - or, at least, it's never published. Humanity will ruin and subjugate whatever we encounter.
     
  3. mr_shadow Minister of State Security Moderator

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    Healthy reminder that with the universe being 14 billion years old and the solar system 5 billion years, any extraterrestrial life in the vicinity of Earth need not be contemporary with humanity.

    When we do go to Mars we might find a lone monument proclaiming:

    "I AM ÖZYMÃNÐIAŜ, BAZHUUL OF BAZHUULS
    LOOK UPON MY WORKS AND DESPAIR!"
     
  4. mr_shadow Minister of State Security Moderator

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    Obviously "Martian ancient evil" is already a sci-fi trope.

    Probably as soon as we discovered Mars was a desert planet, people begun projecting Egyptian and/or Mesopotamian stereotypes onto it.

    #Cthulhufhtagn.
     
  5. egressmadara Wanderin' About

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    Nice to see astrobiologists being able to push panspermia without having to throw local abiogenesis out of the window.
     
  6. ~VK~ The King

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    uggghhhhhh. I always roll my eyes when i read this edgelord crap. It's always the same too.
     
  7. Alwaysmind 总是心神

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    Fake news, martians do not exist.
     
  8. Benedict Cumberzatch Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon

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    That's nice. Thanks for sharing. :del
     
  9. Nemesis The Sith Lord

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    David, no bad. You stay away from anything related to the engineers.
     
  10. Onomatopoeia In a word: Brilliant

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    If aliens exist I have to hope they will be smart enough to destroy humanity for the good of the universe.
     
  11. Chelydra Devour them all.

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    Well let's be proactive then, if you truly feel that way then start with yourself, for the greater good of the universe and all that.

    If you don't want to then reevaluate your stupid opinion.
     
  12. Nemesis The Sith Lord

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    If Aliens exist and reached a level of which they can colonize other worlds then they would have surely gone through a social and technological situation we are in now.
     
  13. Chelydra Devour them all.

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    This of course presumes that their ideology has changed. Biology and it's imperatives don't exactly change.

    Take the Protheans from Mass Effect for example.
     
  14. Ye Xiu Well-Known Member

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    Humans are the ones who will be subjugated :ufdup
     
  15. Catalyst75 Well-Known Member

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    Operating under the assumption you're talking about complex and/or sentient life outside our solar system:

    Spoiler:

    First, we're going to have to survive long enough to successfully establish colonies on other celestial bodies in our solar system after inventing a propulsion system fast enough to make manned space travel in the solar system feasible.

    Second, we're going to have to figure out a way to go across space that doesn't involve a decade-long trip just to reach the next solar system. That would require learning enough about physics to invent an FTL drive, and produce the material necessary to make it work, and produce colony ships feasible for interstellar travel. Furthermore, unless instantaneous communication via entanglement is discovered to be possible, you'd also need to be prepared to be out of contact with anyone not on your colony ship.

    Finally, you'd have to find other life (or they will find us), and the hurdles for that are unknown at this point. It could take many life-times before we find any life, and it could be so far-flung out we couldn't subjugate or exploit it (if we turned into a nascent Galactic Empire by that point) even if we wanted to. It would also be like cosmic hop-scotch: find a habitable planet, find out what its resources are, settle it, establish a stable infrastructure and population while maintaining the colony ship (and/or building another one), send those colony ships out with enough resources to sustain their interstellar journeys, and the process repeats.


    But if it is just life in general, there's still a very long way to go before we could settle any celestial body in our solar system we find living organisms.
     
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  16. RavenSupreme Well-Known Member

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    Top secret intel just revealed:

     
  17. Undertaker elect the dead

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    Because we call them humans now :LOS
     
  18. Takano-san Doroshī no yūjin

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    Hopefully, we'll end up more like the Asari though. :catblush
     
  19. Subarashii Obaa-chan

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    You sure?
     
  20. wibisana still newbie

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    If such building exist, best place to put it is on planet/moon without air(atmosphere)

    Weather is worst enemy of any structure.
     
  21. Alwaysmind 总是心神

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    That’s Martian (singular) I said martians (plural). So yes, I am definitely sure.
     
  22. Subarashii Obaa-chan

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    How does make it any different? They're the same thing, there's just more of one.
     
  23. Mider T Oh Christmas T!

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    Are we sure it isn't Bruce Willis?
     
  24. Alwaysmind 总是心神

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    No, there are not the same. Une demoiselle is not the same as des demoiselles otherwise it be une desmoiselles. Having one bag of apples is not the same as saying I have an apple.

    @Mider T can you explain to him how one and a group are not the the same thing.
     
  25. Mider T Oh Christmas T!

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    Well in the book (and movie) the entire crew is on Mars. Mark Whitney explains that him growing something on Mars technically makes him a colonizer, which is why he is called the Martian.
     
  26. Subarashii Obaa-chan

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  27. Alwaysmind 总是心神

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    Growing potatoes if I recall correctly.
     
  28. Mider T Oh Christmas T!

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    With his own shit as fertilizer yes.
     
  29. Alwaysmind 总是心神

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    science!:edu
     
  30. wibisana still newbie

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    his and his friends's
     
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