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Panorama capturé par les NavCam de Curiosity le 16 novembre 2021. © Nasa, JPL-Caltech

The carbon signature found on Mars may be of biological origin

Carbon is at the heart of life. But that’s not all … When astronomers pick up a special carbon on Mars, they assume it may have been created by life. But not only …

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[EN VIDÉO] Curiosity: A year on Mars in two minutes
Discover one year of Mars exploration in two minutes. Curiosity is at work: rover rolling, digging … © NASA / JPL

It’s been going on for almost 10 years Curiosity Gale travels into the abyss. Since ten years Round NASA indicates Astronomers Data that helps to reconstruct history a little bit Mars planet. And today, Researchers Report found confusing signature on Martian soil samples. In our good old earth, the signature type associated with biological processes!

Does this mean that astronomers have finally got their hands on the Grail? They found evidence for the existence of patterns Alien life? Do not go too fast. Because even if the researchers qualify their observations“Very interesting”, They already have other credible processes in mind to explain them. Views “Unusual”, Of course, but this must be explored before concluding.

But what did they really find? Rocks with isotope compounds Carbon Surprise. Note that carbon has two stable isotopes. Carbon-12 and carbon-13. And because the former operates faster than the latter, the analysis of their comparative quantities in a sample provides useful information for researchers. In Sedimentary rocks Analyzed by Curiosity, they found that specifically high samples in carbon 13 and others were surprisingly low in carbon 13.

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Cosmic cloud or ultraviolet

On earth, the Sediment And low carbon 13 exposed to biological activity. A microbial mat that consumes methane (CH4), For example. However, researchers cannot confirm for the time being that a similar process took place on Mars. The presence of rocks low in carbon 13 may also be due to our passage The Solar System In one Cloud The galactic molecule – which seems to occur every 200 million years – or its breakdown Carbon dioxide (C02) By ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Is the first scene possible? For this, astronomers suggest that the galaxy that caused the first temperature drop on Mars would have been necessary. In order to create Glaciers. Once the ice has melted the dust will remain glazed. Carbon-13-leaves poor sedimentary layers.But so far, there is very little evidence of the presence of glaciers in the past in the Gale Valley.

Is UV track still promising? Here again, nothing allowed us to end this time. Studies show that UV radiation converts CO2 As organic compounds of the formaldehyde type. But researchers still need test results to be sure.

Biological signature?

With all necessary precautionary measures Thing, Astronomers are also considering a scenario that places extraterrestrial biological processes at the center of the story. Inspired by those known on earth. From Bacteria The surface that has formed a unique carbon signature by releasing methaneAtmosphere Mars planet. UV radiation would have changed it later Molecules Larger and more complex, it will eventually rain on the surface and can now be preserved on Mars rocks with their unique carbon signature.

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“On Earth, the processes that make up the carbon signal we detect are biologicalChristopher House, researcher confirms Pennsylvania State University (USA). We need to understand if the same interpretation applies to Mars. Because the red planet is so different from ours. Smaller than Earth, cooler, with weaker gravity and different initial isotopic composition. “On our planet, there are lives everywhere we look. And it also affects the carbon cycle. In the absence of life it prevents one from reading what it would be like. ⁇

Astronomers are now waiting to see if Curiosity will find similar signatures on other sites. They also believe that the carbon content of a p can be analyzedMethane Anach In 2019 it was released by the surface as if it had been accidentally overtaken by a rover. Verifiable or non-verifiable content, hypothesis involved Microbes.

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