World News

Potential Ancient Life on Mars

Astrophysicists have always been obsessed with finding signs of life on Mars. Even though discovering an intelligent life form on Mars might sound ridiculous, recent findings suggest that life may have existed millennia ago at a microbial level. New research further strengthens the theory of ancient microbial life on Mars and backs it up with the presence of chemical compounds called thiophenes. These thiophenes were discovered in soil samples found by the Curiosity Rover, which is currently on the planet. 

The Curiosity Rover

Thiophenes and Life on Mars

Thiopenes are treated as ancient biosignatures on Mars due to their organic composition. Washington State University astrobiologist Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch and Technische Universität scientist Dr. Jacob Heinz published a paper in Berlin on astrobiology. In the study, they linked the presence of thiophenes in Martian soil to the presence of microbial life on the planet. New research suggests that bacteria might have been responsible for the presence of thiophenes through a biological process. Its remains are now found in the soil of Mars.

Unverified Theory

Theorizing the presence of ancient bacteria on Mars through bacteria-catalyzed biological processes is simple, but being able to establish a biochemical link backed by evidence is absolutely different. Even the scientists behind the research are aware of this obstacle. There are many chemical pathways that result in the production of thiophenes and their breakdown by bacteria. On Earth, thiophenes are generally found in crude oil and mushrooms. Furthermore, their molecular composition with carbon and sulfur atoms is deemed a vital element for life on Earth. Nevertheless, this doesn’t indicate they cannot be made without microorganisms. In fact, a meteor impact can lead to abiotic (something which does not involve any form of life) synthesis of thiophenes. 

Evidence Needed

Scientists still have to wait longer to conclusively decide whether the thiophenes molecules found in Martian soil were processed by ancient bacteria or if they were the result of an abiotic process. This is because the Curiosity Rover uses methods that split large molecules up into segments. These resulting bits are what scientists are able to analyze. However, the Rosalind Franklin Mission, set to take off in July of this year, will use less catabolic methods, meaning specialists will be able to examine larger particles and thus be able to determine the real origins of the thiophene molecules. Even though the presence of thiophenes points toward a biological process on Mars, it might still not be enough. In an interview, Schulze-Makuch declared that “the proof will really require that we actually send people there” and for “an astronaut to look through a microscope and see a moving microbe.”

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