Traces Of Martian Organic Matter Were Found In Antarctica
Ancient nitrogen-containing molecules have been found in a Martian meteorite that fell in Antarctica. This means that there was an organic matter on early Mars.
The Allan Hills 84001 meteorite was found in 1984. During its recent research, Japanese planetary scientists saw ancient nitrogen-containing organic molecules in it. The scientists' findings are published in Nature Communications.
Questions about whether there is or was life on Mars have been asked for decades. But until now, no nitrogenous compounds have been found in meteorites from this planet due to technical difficulties, because they are always contaminated with earth's organic matter.
But Mizuho Koike of the JAXA Institute of Space and Astronautics and her colleagues have developed a new method for such research. With its help, scientists have discovered in Allan Hills 84001 orange fine-grained formations of carbonate minerals that fell into sediment from near-surface Martian waters about four billion years ago.
Several grains of these minerals, about 50 micrometers in size, were extracted. They were irradiated with x-rays, performing an analysis using a method that helps identify substances by measuring the energy with which they absorb radiation.
It turned out that the samples contain nitrogen, which is part of organic molecules. Apparently, organic matter was formed on Mars or was brought to it by meteorites from other planets.
Scientists have concluded that organic matter, no matter how it got to the "red planet," has a chance to develop into more complex forms. Further studies of Martian meteorites and missions involving the collection of soil samples on Mars and its moons will help to understand this.