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posted by martyb on Saturday January 15, @03:59PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Organic molecules in an ancient Mars meteorite formed via geology, not alien life:

When researchers in 1996 reported they had found organic molecules nestled in an ancient Martian meteorite discovered in Antarctica, it caused quite a buzz. Some insisted the compounds were big-if-true evidence of life having existed on Mars (SN: 3/8/01). Others, though, pointed to contamination by earthly life-forms or some nonbiological origins (SN: 1/10/18).

Now, a geochemical analysis of the meteorite provides the latest buzzkill to the idea that alien life inhabited the 4.09-billion-year-old fragment of the Red Planet. It suggests instead that the organic matter within probably formed from the chemical interplay of water and minerals mingling under Mars' surface, researchers report in the Jan. 14 Science. Even so, the finding could aid in the search for life, the team says.

Organic molecules are often produced by living organisms, but they can also arise from nonbiological, abiotic processes. Though myriad hypotheses claim to explain what sparked life, many researchers consider abiotic organic molecules to be necessary starting material. Martian geologic processes could have been generating these compounds for billions of years, the new study suggests.

"These organic chemicals could have become the primordial soup that might have helped form life on [Mars]," says Andrew Steele, a biochemist from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C. Whether life ever existed there, however, remains unknown.

[...] Though the work doesn't bring us any closer to proving or disproving the existence of life on Mars, identifying abiotic sources of organic compounds there is crucial for the search, Steele explains. Once you've figured out how Martian organic chemistry acts without meddlesome life, he says, "you can then look to see if it's been tweaked."

Journal Reference:
A. Steele, L. G. Benning, R. Wirth, A. Schreiber, et al. Organic synthesis associated with serpentinization and carbonation on early Mars, Science (DOI: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abg7905)


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  • (Score: 2) by acid andy on Saturday January 15, @04:49PM (2 children)

    by acid andy (1683) on Saturday January 15, @04:49PM (#1212947) Homepage Journal

    Get your ass to Mars.*

    *First ensuring adequate hygiene processes are followed to prevent contamination by microorganisms from Earth.

    --
    Master of the science of the art of the science of art.
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Mojibake Tengu on Saturday January 15, @05:22PM (1 child)

      by Mojibake Tengu (8598) Subscriber Badge on Saturday January 15, @05:22PM (#1212955) Journal

      *...

      When colonizing a planet, I am not quite sure if preservation of any organisms alien to terrestrial life is a good strategy.

      But maybe that's just me, being overtly pragmatic.

      --
      The edge of 太玄 cannot be defined, for it is beyond every aspect of design
      • (Score: 3, Funny) by Username on Saturday January 15, @11:43PM

        by Username (4557) on Saturday January 15, @11:43PM (#1213038)

        Just build The Pholus Mutagen, it will reduce the effect of industry on Planet's ecology at all of your bases. Then you won't be attacked by mindworms as much.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @05:31PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @05:31PM (#1212956)

    The more we find out how utterly precious, alone and unique life on Earth is, maybe we will start to value its environment more.

    We have found no life anywhere in the Universe save for Earth, (not to say it may exist in some remote time and space).
    We also have found that humans will not be living in space, on the Moon, on Mars or anywhere outside of 1G for longer than a year.
    The closest star system, Proxima Centauri is 4.5 light years away, (40 trillion kilometers).
    Our fastest ship, the Parks probe at about 500,000km/hr will take us 10,000 years to get there.

    The best humans can ever hope for is to send tardigrades (aka water bears) on the trip using a light-sail with lasers to achieve 20% speed of light thereby making the trip in 20 years.

    So ya, sorry to dash the hopes of McDonalds, Coke, Starbucks, Amazon, WalMart et al.
    Unless there is some really revolutionary tech, those companies will have to settle for destroying this planet only.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @08:47PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @08:47PM (#1213000)

      Life is literally everywhere. 95% of the mass of the universe consists of light absorbing pigments, that you call life. You also call it dark matter.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @06:52PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @06:52PM (#1212976)

    That is what the alien overlords want you to believe ...

  • (Score: 0, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @07:49PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @07:49PM (#1212985)

    We'll all be dead eventually and won't see a change in how humans plunder the planet in our lifetimes.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 16, @05:33PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 16, @05:33PM (#1213168)

      I have no children and don't plan to so I won't be subjecting anyone new to this planet in future generations. So at the very least I am minimizing the extent that my actions contribute to future plunderings and environmental damage and the extent that I contribute to the number of people in the future that will have to bear the burden of a dystopic future amongst corrupt politicians and undesirable neighbors. The present is dystopic enough.

      Not to mention that the government keeps trying to pass more and more laws to tax and further burden the working class so they can squander it for themselves (Venmo, Zelle and others must now report transactions if the annual amount exceeds $600). They complain that certain groups of people that we want more children from aren't having children (those that tend to create desirable societies, statically much less likely to have criminal backgrounds, much less likely to steal and loot, much less likely to litter and vandalize, much less likely to commit violent acts, much more competent in the technical skills that make us better off) while those that we want fewer children from are the ones having all the children. They complain about how this will reshape the demographics of future generations and its culture to create a future dystopic culture with a higher percentage of less skilled people that create undesirable societies.

      It's weird, I was talking to someone of a given race that at one time, on the one hand, spent a lot of time complaining about how bad people of this other race are and, on the other hand, was also complaining about how much it sucks that people from this same other race aren't really having children anymore. This person is relatively intelligent and receptive and I was able to change their mind on many things as well through our discussions (and I learned a lot from this person as well).

      At one time this person was complaining about tap water quality. I explained that one problem is that many municipalities can't find enough skill and competent chemists that are qualified to do a good job ensuring good water quality. There are only so many people with the right skills in supply but there is a much larger demand for the water provided. If this person wants they can become a chemist and contribute to the solution.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @08:04PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @08:04PM (#1212988)

    We'll all be dead eventually and won't see a change in how humans plunder the planet in our lifetimes.

    And FUCK YOU whomever marked this flame bait. It's true and you know it.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @08:31PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @08:31PM (#1212996)

      You'll be dead. I'll be immortal.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 16, @12:57PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 16, @12:57PM (#1213115)

        you can be immortal, at the same time as your body is dead, or some such universal question not yet answered.

  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday January 17, @06:32PM

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 17, @06:32PM (#1213435) Journal

    Didn't the first organic molecules on Earth begin from geo-chemistry?

    Maybe Martian organic molecules are not the result of alien life, but were the precursor to it? Maybe conditions favorable to life didn't last long enough.

    --
    Difference between inlaws and outlaws: outlaws are wanted.
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