Has Curiosity discovered evidence of past life on Mars ? Image Credit: NASA
Scientists believe that organic compounds known as thiophenes could be an indicator of life on Mars.
Discovered on the Red Planet by NASA's Curiosity rover, these compounds can be found on Earth in various fossil fuels such as coal and oil as well as in certain types of fungi such as white truffles.
Now in a new study, astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch from Washington State University and Jacob Heinz from the Technische Universitat in Berlin have determined that a biological process - most likely involving bacteria - could quite easily be responsible for the presence of thiophenes on Mars.
"We identified several biological pathways for thiophenes that seem more likely than chemical ones, but we still need proof," said Schulze-Makuch.
"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."
It is important to note however that if biologial processes were responsible for the compound, they would have likely existed on Mars in its distant past, not in the present day.
Even so, such a discovery would still be extremely significant.
As things stand however, it may take new data from NASA's upcoming Mars 2020 rover to fully unravel the mystery and determine once and for all how these compounds came to be there.
Source: Phys.org | Comments (8)