Organic molecules discovered on Mars similar to early life on Earth

Organic molecules found on Mars are “consistent with early life” on the red planet, scientists have revealed.

The matter is a tantalizing clue in the hunt for alien life in our Solar System.

Mars has always been a great candidate for alien life – and hunting for it there is relatively easy, compared to other planets.

Now hope for a breakthrough has been boosted by the discovery of organic compounds on Mars.

They’re called thiophenes, and are found on Earth.

You’ll find thiophenes in coal, crude oil, and even white truffles – a popular type of mushroom.

According to scientists, their presence is consistent with early life having existed on Mars.

It’s believed that a biological process may have played a role in the organic compound’s existence on Mars.

However, they say this more likely involved bacteria than a truffle.

“We identified several biological pathways for thiophenes that seem more likely than chemical ones, but we still need proof,” said astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuchm, of Washington State University.

“If you find thiophenes on Earth, then you would think they are biological, but on Mars, of course, the bar to prove that has to be quite a bit higher.”

The bad news is that it’s possible that these compounds were formed through non-biological processes.

One explanation would be meteor impacts, which can create the compounds through high-temperature chemical interactions.

However, there is a biological back-story too.

Today, Mars is a cold and inhospitable world.

But three billion years ago, Mars was warmer and wetter – allowing bacteria to facilitate a “sulfate reduction process” that results in thiophenes.

Astronomers hope to learn more about organic molecules on Mars with Rosalind Franklin rover, which launches in July 2020.

Sadly, even if the next rover obtains better data than Curiosity (currently roaming Mars), it’s still not a guarantee of finding alien life.

“As Carl Sagan said ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,’” Schulze-Makuch said.

“I think the proof will really require that we actually send people there, and an astronaut looks through a microscope and sees a moving microbe.”

This research was published in the Astrobiology journal.

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