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Organic compounds confirmed on Mars

 
 
Reply Thu 7 Jun, 2018 02:16 pm
NASA today announced that they have confirmed the presence of large organic molecules on the surface of Mars.

The quote I included below hints at just how close they are getting.

To be clear, Organics Compounds are not the same as Life, so they have not discovered Life, or even conclusive evidence of Life. But the presence of organics and the periodicity of Methane in the atmosphere is really all pointing in one direction. They won't say it because they are good scientists and their reputations are on the line. But I'll go ahead and say it ... it's really starting to look like there's something alive on Mars.

Quote:
"The Curiosity rover has been sampling on Mars for the past 5 years. Eigenbrode et al. used two instruments in the SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) suite to catch traces of complex organics preserved in 3-billion-year-old sediments. Heating the sediments released an array of organics and volatiles reminiscent of organic-rich sedimentary rock found on Earth. Most methane on Earth is produced by biological sources, but numerous abiotic processes have been proposed to explain martian methane. Webster et al. report atmospheric measurements of methane covering 3 martian years and found that the background level varies with the local seasons. The seasonal variation provides an important clue for determining the origin of martian methane.

Science, this issue p. 1096, p. 1093; see also p. 1068"

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Type: Discussion • Score: 6 • Views: 1,419 • Replies: 28
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 7 Jun, 2018 02:21 pm
It's getting close. Hard to be patient.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 05:58 am
Organics discussion at 24 mins in.


0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  2  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 06:08 am
@rosborne979,
Organic compounds... hmmm... does that mean there might have once been a Whole Foods there?
rosborne979
 
  2  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 06:52 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
Organic compounds... hmmm... does that mean there might have once been a Whole Foods there?

Yeh, pretty soon you'll be able to go to Mars to pay high prices for lower quality food. Wink
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 07:29 am
Quote:
They won't say it because they are good scientists and their reputations are on the line. But I'll go ahead and say it ... it's really starting to look like there's something alive on Mars.


I have to say that I agree with the scientists here. Saying that there is clear evidence of past or present life on Mars is premature.

Still, this is pretty exciting.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 07:49 am
So I'm trying to figure out what kind of life might be up there that would fit into the data we've got so far. NASA has stated clearly that they do not yet have enough data to confirm the source of the Organic Molecules, but assuming there is something living up there, then what fits the data...

Based on what I've heard so far, the most likely candidate seems like some form of micro-organism probably living a few meters down under the soil in a layer of ice or slush. But the thing I can't figure out is how such an organism gets its energy. On Earth, the root energy source is sunlight, with some geothermal sources. With Mars being stable geothermically it seems unlikely that anything is deriving energy from that. And there probably isn't a whole lot of light getting down into the soil a few meters, so what is the energy source?

Could it be the ambient radiation which Mars is exposed to?
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 08:00 am
@rosborne979,
This is not my area of science... but based on what I am hearing, there are three possibilities. First, it is very possible that these molecules have a source that is not biological... meteoric activity for example. Second, it is possible that the origin of the organic molecules was biological, but that the life that caused them is now extinct. The periodic methane (from what I have heard) could be cycling through some environmental process.

And Third.... Of course, it is possible that something is living under the surface. It is hard to say what fits the data when we don't have all the data yet.

Sorry to be a downer. It is just that I share the caution of the scientists.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 08:50 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
I have to say that I agree with the scientists here. Saying that there is clear evidence of past or present life on Mars is premature.

I agree as well. And I applaud their caution given that they represent a highly reliable and rigorous source of information.

One of the ladies on the NASA team specifically said, "we do not have enough data yet to know what is causing, or had caused, the Organics.", and I take that as granted.

But part of my hope for this thread was to speculate for entertainment based on scientific possibilities.

Also, in my personal opinion, those scientists I see in the interviews are all just about bubbling over with the desire to say that the best fit for the data they are seeing is life, both past and present. They just won't say it. And good for them. But I can say it.

0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 09:04 am
I have personally always considered it a given that tiny life once existed on Mars. I was never prepared to think it could live still, but now I am hoping I will be able to change that view.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 09:08 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:

This is not my area of science... but based on what I am hearing, there are three possibilities. First, it is very possible that these molecules have a source that is not biological... meteoric activity for example. Second, it is possible that the origin of the organic molecules was biological, but that the life that caused them is now extinct. The periodic methane (from what I have heard) could be cycling through some environmental process.

And Third.... Of course, it is possible that something is living under the surface. It is hard to say what fits the data when we don't have all the data yet.

Sorry to be a downer. It is just that I share the caution of the scientists.

Don't worry. I don't see that as a downer. That's just fine-tuning the range for speculation.

Based on what I've heard so far, I think they have almost eliminated the idea of meteoric activity related to the methane. And while methane emissions could still be explained by Clathrate Hydrates, it's not an easy fit to the data. Certainly not as easy as "Life".

The other thing that makes me think these scientists are leaning toward the "life" explanation for things rather than the geological process explanation is that many of their answers lead to them spontaneously referring to the upcoming Exo-Mars program which is specifically targeted toward confirming life. So far, all NASA has been doing is gathering broad range data and slowly shrinking the range of possibilities, they have not been specifically looking for evidence of Life because they hadn't narrowed the range far enough yet. But that is now changing, and you can hear it in what they are not saying in their answers and in how they describe future experiments. They are starting to focus on actually looking for life, and they wouldn't do that unless they were feeling pretty confident that most other possibilities were eliminated.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 09:35 am
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:
I have personally always considered it a given that tiny life once existed on Mars.

I reached that conclusion once they confirmed that standing water once existed on Mars for a very long time. I didn't start actually considering the possibility of present day life until they started seeing the Methane plumes and confirmed that presence of ice/slush layers still under the surface. That seems like a decent, if extreme, environment to me.

I still don't know what the energy source might be for something living under the ground in an ice layer. But then again, we really don't what type of thing might be living up there. I'm guessing it's DNA based due to similarities in environment and due to the fact that Mars and Earth have been exchanging asteroids for billions of years, but it's not a given. There could be anything up there. And wouldn't *that* be interesting.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 09:43 am
@rosborne979,
It would be wonderful if something there could be as big as a crayfish.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 09:45 am
But the possibility says the government should keep human feet away from there, until they asses the impact it would make.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 10:23 am
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:

But the possibility says the government should keep human feet away from there, until they asses the impact it would make.


I disagree, and I have already made it clear that my feet are available for Mars (and my ass too since you mentioned it).
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 10:50 am
@maxdancona,
Don't want H G Wells' story to be prophetic.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 11:02 am
@edgarblythe,
I am not sure which H.G. Wells story you are talking about. The only one I can think of is War of The Worlds... but that doesn't make sense. In that one the Martians came to us (not the other way around).

You do realize H.G. Wells wrote fiction, don't you?
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 11:11 am
@maxdancona,
You do realize War of the Worlds was about beings becoming fatally infected by life from another planet?
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 11:15 am
@edgarblythe,
Gotcha Edgar. We should definitely think twice before sending our three legged fighting machines to attack Martian cities.

(Geez)

It is still fiction.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 8 Jun, 2018 11:17 am
@maxdancona,
There were living beings inside the machines and they became infected and died.
 

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