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US laboratory finds complex organic materials on Mars

Scientists have concluded that there are large amounts of organic matter on the surface of Mars based on the results of the study of soil samples from the so-called “Bignold dunes” conducted by the US Curiosity rover Laboratory.

It is the second reservoir of organic matter on the Red Planet. A description of the study was published in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.

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In an article published in the journal, the researchers said: “We did not find amino acids in these soil samples, but there are derivatives of benzene, ammonia, phenols, phosphoric acid and high molecular weight compounds. We have not yet determined how these substances appeared.”

It is noteworthy that the “Curiosity” ruber found the first organic matter on the surface of Mars about 3 years ago in the middle of the Martian “Gallal” crater. His chemical laboratory there discovered traces of benzene derivatives in local rock samples, as well as sulfur compounds and a variety of simple hydrocarbons.

In a new analysis, scientists from the Curiosity team led by Paul Mahaffey have discovered other large deposits of organic matter on the surface of Mars. The samples, this time, were from another region of Mars called the Bagnole dune.

This area aroused the interest of scientists because the rover discovered deposits of rocks formed here in hot springs, where life could have existed. Therefore, the Curiosity rover was stopping at various locations on the Bagnold dunes, collecting soil and rock samples and placing them in a special container located in the rover’s chemical laboratory for further studies.

The Curiosity rover is a nuclear-powered Mars rover that is part of the US Space Agency’s Mars Science Laboratory project.

Previous experiments had witnessed heating the Martian rocks to a high temperature, which led to the emission of various gases from them, which were examined using a special scale (chromatograph). Thanks to this, the scientists were able to detect relatively simple organic compounds in the samples, but it was impossible to isolate the complex substances that decompose when heated.

In order to solve this problem, devices were installed to conduct so-called “wet chemistry” experiments in the rover, where crushed rock samples are washed with a special substance that dissolves the complex organic matter and allows its presence to be proven using a chromatograph.

The choice of the researcher, Mahaffy and his colleagues for the Bagnold dunes was fully justified, as the rover devices discovered in it benzene compounds, various amines, phenols and phosphoric acid, in addition to many complex organic molecules. Its exact composition remains a mystery due to Curioset’s limited lab capacity.

The discovery of complex organic matter in two different regions of the “Gallal” crater is important evidence that the previous discoveries of “Curiosity” were not a coincidence or a mistake. Mahaffy and his colleagues hope that through further experiments, planetary scientists will be able to find traces of amino acids and other substances from which life could have arisen on Mars.

Source: TASS


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