Friday, May 24, 2024

Organic matter in other Martian rocks

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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For one thing, the site that Perseverance is currently exploring is the bottom of a former river delta, flowing into a lake now known as Jezero Crater. On the other hand, finding organic matter in two of the four rock samples analyzed shows that the robot is in good standing. These rocks are a few billion years old, at a time when Mars was thought to be much more welcoming.

“These are two of the most important samples we will collect on this mission,” He said at a press conference David L. Schuster of the University of California, one of the geologists on the Perseverance team.

He and other experts However, they were eager to point out That organic molecules are not synonymous with life. Pure chemical processes may explain its presence in these rocks. But this is exactly the “signature” type. What are biologists looking for?.

The equipment on board the “perseverance” does not allow us to go ahead and provide conclusive evidence. Therefore, it will be necessary to wait until these rocks are returned to Earth – because perseverance is only the first stage of a long mission. It should collect enough samples that are considered interesting (12 so far), leaving some behind in metal tubes which, in the next decade, a new probe (Mars sample return) will pick up and return to the ground. This, a collaboration between European and American space agencies, should theoretically leave in 2028.

Arriving at the Red Planet in February 2021, the tenacious — accompanied by the creativity of the “helicopter” — spent its first year exploring the “bottom” of the crater, before heading to what planetary scientists considered Its true purposeAnd: a dry delta bottom. The probe also landed farther than expected from this delta, which explains the time it took to get there: it finally got there last April. Logically, the river’s flow should have left in its deltas more sedimentary rocks and debris than several places upstream.

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One of these two rocks is what geologists call sandstone, which is the result of the accumulation of most sand grains. The other rock is mud A sedimentary rock originally composed of clay or clay. If it formed, as it is supposed, during the evaporation of the lake, it may have retained traces of microbial life, Assuming such a thing exists 3 billion years ago.

Organic Markers It was previously found in the crater of the volcano, but in encouraging quantities much less than here. The hardware expert who performed this analysis added: “The signals were present at nearly every point in every scan” (Scanning habitable environments with Raman & Luminescence for organics and chemicals), Sunanda Sharma.

Photo: Part of the delta saw perseverance approaching her, In September 2021.

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