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Mars Rock Ingredient 'Boron' Organic Matter Points to Past Habitability

Dec 15, 2016 09:59 AM EST
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The rocks on Mars may have more proof of the past habitability of the planet. NASA discovered that Martian rocks posses "Boron", an organic matter that increases the possibility that life once thrived on Mars.

Signs of microbial life is vital in the search for life. Currently, NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover is studying how the former lakes on the red planet changed to their state today. Scientists confirmed that some organic matter is indeed buried on the rocks including clay, hematite, and boron. These are found in younger rock layers based on NASA's data.

"I am convinced that organics are all over Mars," Jennifer Eigenbrode, a biogeochemist and geologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said in a statement. "They're all over the surface and they're probably through the rock record," Eigenbrode added.

Experts are looking into how the organic matter was transported and deposited on the rocks by flowing water. Studies show that the vein-like formations on Mars could have been engraved by moving water that carries with it organic matter that, in turn, mixed with the chemistry of the water and the rocks as well.

"There is so much variability in the composition at different elevations, we've hit a jackpot," John Grotzinger, from Caltech in Pasadena, California said in a press release. The Curiosity team presented these data during the American Geophysical Union. NASA's Mars rover is currently studying younger layers of rocks that surprisingly provided scientists with more interesting information Based on NASA's findings, scientists are particularly baffled by how interaction on groundwater affected the deposit of sediments.

What drives the scientists to further understand the role of the organic matter found on Martian rocks is that on Earth, the presence of this matter is vital to sustain life.

"A sedimentary basin such as this is a chemical reactor. Elements get rearranged. New minerals form and old ones dissolve. Electrons get redistributed. On Earth, these reactions support life," Grotzinger said in a statement.

The discovery of boron and other organic matter on Martian rocks is a good start to finding signs of life on the red planet. However, NASA says there is still no concrete evidence that confirms past habitability on the red planet. NASA's Curiosity rover will continue to search the red planet to identify patterns and conditions that may or could have been conducive for microbes to thrive.


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