Mars Rover "Kyuriositi" found "ancient organics" and confirmed the seasonality of methane emissions

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2018-06-07 22:15:09

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Mars Rover

Autonomous Mars science laboratory "Curiosity" space Agency NASA, a few years dedicated to the research of the red planet, has made two amazing discoveries. First, the Rover has been able to confirm the assumption that the concentration of methane in the planet's atmosphere , and secondly, the device is found . No, sorry, live the life he found, but found traces of ancient organic matter that can say that at some point in the history of the planet really could be living beings. The find was discovered at the bottom of the drained lake. Article scientists describing the discovery, published in the journal Science.

"the Discovery of methane and organics on Mars are of great importance for the search of traces of life. "Curiosity" has already shown that the lake that covered the bottom of Gale crater 3.5 billion years ago, it was potentially habitable. Given the presence of organic matter on its bottom, now the question about the existence of Martian life has become even more urgent", commented the opening of the Inge, Kate, a planetary scientist at the University of Utrecht (Netherlands).

Scientists have long debated the topic of whether there exist in subsurface layers of Martian soil where potentially has liquid water, suitable temperature and where almost do not penetrate cosmic rays — stocks of organic matter or microbes.

When the first studies of the atmosphere in 2012 and 2013, "Curiosity" failed to find traces of methane. However, just a few months the sensors of the Rover recorded several spikes in methane concentration. According to other assumptions, these traces could be the result of some "inanimate" processes in the soil of Mars.

The head of the scientific team of the Rover "Curiosity" Ashwin Vasavada and his colleagues gave a comprehensive answer to all the critics, presenting the results of six years of observations of the concentration of methane in the Martian atmosphere and making a surprising discovery in a place named Mojave three years ago.

For six years on the red planet, the Rover saw the two Martian winter, fall, spring, and summer. This allowed Vasavada and his team to accurately measure seasonal variations of methane in the Martian atmosphere, as well as to clarify past performance measurements.

Planetary scientists are fully confident that the concentration of methane in the Martian atmosphere increases during summer and decreases during the winter, reaching concentrations of 2.5 and 6.5 parts per ten billion. A three-fold increase in the proportion of methane in the summer air of Mars, as scientists, cannot be explained by atmospheric processes or the fact that solar ultraviolet better decompose organic fragments of asteroids falling on the red planet.

All of this suggests that the methane is formed in the lower layers of the soil of Mars or in the activities of the microbes, or the decomposition of clathrates, compounds of methane and water, or thanks to some geothermal processes.

As shown by the sharp spikes in local concentrations of methane in excess of typical values tens of times, this gas accumulates inside the kind of micro-caves and reservoirs in the soil and periodically breaks out.

In late 2012, John grotzinger, the former head of the scientific team of the Rover "Curiosity" has announced the opening of which, he said, was to get to the pages of textbooks. However, after two weeks, when the news has had time to acquire the most fantastic rumors, the planetary scientists of NASA spoke about the discovery of perchlorates – primitive organic molecules in the soil of Mars.

This immediately shattered hopes for the opening of the first traces of extraterrestrial life, as similar molecules can be formed in the soil as a result of "non-living" chemical reactions and interaction of other forms of organic matter with ultraviolet light and cosmic rays.

However, the frustration with perchlorates, how to write Grotzinger and his colleagues, have gone by the wayside in January 2015, when the Rover reached the base of mount sharp, the Central peak at the bottom of Gale crater, and began to study the chemical composition of stones and rocks one of the local hills, named Mojave.

The scientists ' Interest was attracted by a strange "banding" of clay and other rocks formed at the bottom of an ancient Martian lake about 3.5 billion years ago. Drilled soil and studying its composition, planetary scientists have discovered a surprising — a huge number of complex organic molecules.

Capabilities of the mass spectrometer "Curiosity" is very modest, but even they were enough to detect traces of thiophene, sulfur compounds and butirina, methanethiol, sulfur and methane, benzothiophene, as well as large numbers of simple hydrocarbons, aromatic their "cousins" and a number of other molecules.

As emphasized by Grotzinger and his colleagues, these molecules likely to have been a part of more complex organics. Due to the leakage of the solvent, the scientists had to conduct all the experiments within the SAM only at high temperatures, 600-800 degrees Celsius, which was to destroy all large molecules and break them down into many small "tails".

About the same molecules were found near Mojave, in the confidence hills, where the Rover stopped after a month. Their presence, as the scientists conclude, does not necessarily indicate that life existed on Mars 3.5 million years ago. It suggests that the waters of the Martian lakes could occur reactions engendered by such complex organics, and sources of food for potential life was more diverse than previously thought.

Interestingly, the neighboring regions of the bottom of Gale crater, where Curiosity first found the traces of a lake, does not contain a similar inventory of organics, despite their older age. Scientists believe that this is due to the fact that they were naked for quite a long time compared to the Mojave and the confidence hills, and all organic matter has had time to erode from them.

"Regardless of how it occurred this organic matter, its presence suggests that on the surface of Mars may be present traces of life, although the radiation and a large number of oxidants in the atmosphere. These traces may be hiding under its surface or in the rocks, caught a few thousand years ago," the scientists conclude.

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