NASA’s Perseverance Rover Finds ‘Organic Compounds’ on Mars

NASA's Perseverance Rover

Closer to uncovering the secrets of Mars: Perseverance rover detects complex organic compounds in an ancient lake, raising hopes for signs of past life. Image:

NASA’s Perseverance rover has made a significant discovery on Mars, bringing us closer to uncovering evidence of past life on the planet. The rover has been exploring the Jezero Crater, which was once home to a massive lake around 3.5 billion years ago. Perseverance, the largest and most expensive Mars mission to date, has been collecting rock and soil samples from the crater.

Last year, the mission detected simple organic compounds in the ancient riverbed of the crater. Now, using a laser light spectrometer called Sherloc, Perseverance has found a variety of more complex organic compounds. These compounds, consisting of one or two carbon rings, are similar to the building blocks of life on Earth, such as those found in DNA.

The discovery indicates that more complex geochemical processes occurred in the ancient riverbed than previously thought. However, it is important to note that these carbon compounds could also have been produced by non-living geological processes, like the interaction of water with rocks or meteorite impacts.

Joseph Razzell Hollis, a co-author of the study, emphasises the need for caution in interpreting these findings. While the signals are intriguing and could potentially be biological in origin, scientists must exhaust all possible alternative explanations before considering the presence of life. The next step is to determine the origin of these carbon rings and rule out non-biological processes.

The Jezero Crater, created by a meteorite impact billions of years ago, was later filled with water, forming a river and deltas. Scientists estimate that this landscape existed for approximately 10 million years before Mars lost its water and atmosphere. If microbial life did exist on Mars, it may have survived underground.

To further investigate, the European Space Agency (ESA) plans to send the Rosalind Franklin rover to Mars in 2028. This rover will have the capability to drill into the planet’s surface and search for traces of past life underground.

NASA and ESA also have plans to retrieve the samples collected by Perseverance. Another mission will be sent to Mars to collect the samples left behind by the rover. These samples will be launched into Mars orbit and brought back to Earth for laboratory analysis. This mission, scheduled for the early next decade, will provide the definitive answer regarding the presence of life on Mars billions of years ago.

The discovery of organic compounds on Mars, regardless of their origin, provides valuable insights into the planet’s history and the conditions that existed when it had water. By mapping these organic compounds, scientists can better understand the carbon cycle on Mars and its potential to support life.

The recent findings, published in the Nature journal, highlight the diverse organic-mineral associations in Jezero Crater, furthering our knowledge of Mars and its potential for hosting life.

To read the complete paper from the Nature journal click here

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Written by

Catherine McGeer

I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!