Evidence of Reduced Carbon On Mars Found
A recent study funded by NASA has revealed that meteorites from Mars aged as old as 4.2 billion years contain reduced carbon, an organic macromolecule. The study also confirmed that the carbon was non-biologically formed.
"These findings show that the storage of reduced carbon molecules on Mars occurred throughout the planet's history and might have been similar to processes that occurred on the ancient Earth," said Andrew Steele, lead author of the paper and researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington. "Understanding the genesis of these non-biological, carbon-containing macromolecules on Mars is crucial for developing future missions to detect evidence of life on our neighboring planet
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The study examined 11 meteorites found on Earth that came from Mars. The meteorites' respective ages covers a span of approximately 4.2 billion years of the Red Planet's history. Of those 11, the researchers found evidence of reduced carbon in 10 of them.
Reduced carbon is one of the key ingredients needed for life and is a form of carbon that is either chemically bonded to itself or to hydrogen.
"Without carbon, the building blocks of life cannot exist... So it is reduced carbon that, with hydrogen, with oxygen, with nitrogen make up the organic molecules of life," said Steele.
The researchers were able to prove that the carbon came from Mars, and was not a result of contamination from Earth. Instead, the carbon is a result of volcanic activity on Mars.
In another paper, Steele looked at another meteor, ALH84001, to determine if the organic macromolecules it contained were of biological origin. The mineralogist concluded that macromolecules were of non-biological origin as well, and the result of chemical reactions involving the forming of graphite carbon.