Nasa Mars rover finds organic matter in ancient lake bed

Ursa major

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#1
Nasa’s veteran Curiosity rover has found complex organic matter buried and preserved in ancient sediments that formed a vast lake bed on Mars more than 3bn years ago, according to a report in the Grauniad. It goes on to say that:
Researchers cannot tell how the organic material formed and so leave open the crucial question: are the compounds remnants of past organisms; the product of chemical reactions with rocks; or were they brought to Mars in comets or other falling debris that slammed into the surface?
 

Alexa

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#2
I saw this on the news. What I would like to know is if Mars has recent organic matter. 3bn years ago is long, long, looong time ago.

Maybe Curiosity can find those green martians hiding underground ? :D
 

Venusian Broon

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#8
The general media reports show horrible spin to try and make the story interesting - the following looks like the original piece, but frustratingly there's nothing about the actual sample itself, simply analysis of a heated sample:

Organic matter preserved in 3-billion-year-old mudstones at Gale crater, Mars
Heating the sample and analysing the volatiles that it produces is all they can really do with a small rover. To actually analyse the rock you would probably need a proper chemical lab with a human.
 

Venusian Broon

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#9
So, have they actually and unequivocally found liquid water on Mars yet?
I very much doubt they will find actual liquid water on the surface of Mars. You'd probably have to dig pretty deep, something a rover is not going to be able to do.

That it had water on the surface at some point in the past is, I believe, very likely given the evidence of water erosion and the some of rocks that they've found.
 

night_wrtr

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#11
I very much doubt they will find actual liquid water on the surface of Mars. You'd probably have to dig pretty deep, something a rover is not going to be able to do.

That it had water on the surface at some point in the past is, I believe, very likely given the evidence of water erosion and the some of rocks that they've found.
Is it not possible to sample the water ice at the polar cap?
 

night_wrtr

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#15
Well, this is the next best thing. So, we know for sure ice exists on Mars, no holds barred frozen H20? Have we or are we going to send a rover over to check it out?
It would more than likely have to be a new rover mission. I don't think Curiosity is anywhere near the ice caps(someone smarter than me will have to do the math on how far away the rover is), and seeing how Curiosity has only traveled like 12 miles so far, it would be a while before it made it there.
 

Venusian Broon

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#16
Well, this is the next best thing. So, we know for sure ice exists on Mars, no holds barred frozen H20? Have we or are we going to send a rover over to check it out?
Part of Curiosity's mission was to check out the habitability of the spot they landed at so there must be other reasons for wanting to check out that spot.

Maybe the polar regions are a bit too cold or variable for a human settlement? And perhaps they want a spot that gets more sunlight? For solar power?
 

Onyx

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#19
I'm no expert, obviously, but it seems to me that a microscopic examination of some of that Martian water would be of above average importance.
Polar ice tends to collect from either evaporation turning into precipitation, which deposits incredibly clean H20 ice, or from cometary ice that has fallen from deep space. Neither are likely to cause Mars life to be trapped in the ice. Permafrost nearer the equator would be a much more likely place to bother to look for life in the ice.
 

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