A team of Japanese researches from JAXA and the Tokyo Institute of Technology has made a surprising discovery as they have found nitrogen and organic molecules in samples that were recovered from a Martian meteorite. Could that be a sign of ancient life on Mars?
The organic material has been encased for more than 4 billion years, and it can be traced back to the Noachian age of the planet. As the nitrogen was found in carbonate minerals, it is inferred that Mars may have been wet and filled with organic materials in the past, as carbonates tend to accumulate in groundwater.
Several decades of research have been spent on the goal to learn if organic compounds can be found on Mars and where do they come from. Recent studies conducted with the help of rovers have revealed that organics may have been present. Still, their source remains elusive among other aspects like distribution, preservation, and potential biochemical relationships.
Organic Molecules in Martian Meteorite Could Hint to Ancient Life on Mars
Martian meteorites are pieces of rock that were launched into the air as other large meteors crashed into the surface, and they were propelled towards Earth. Alan Hills 84001 is one of the essential meteorites that were found. This meteorite was discovered in 1984 in the Antarctic region with the same name, and it contains carbonate minerals, which precipitated approximately 4 billion years ago.
Previous attempts to analyze carbonate samples from the meteorite have been affected by contamination with Antarctic snow and ice, complicating the task of determining the amount of material that comes from Mars. There were also no methods that could be used to measure the presence of nitrogen.
With the help of an advanced technique, the team of researchers has managed to explore the nitrogen present in carbonate samples from ALH 840001 and believes that several organic molecules were present on the Red Planet in the past, hinting to ancient life on Mars More data can be found in the study, which was published in a scientific journal.