Really? Signs of life on Red Planet? Take a bow, Perseverance Rover

Humanity has been looking for water, and then signs of life, on planet Mars for over a hundred years. A hint of the latter may just have been fund by NASA.

| Updated on: Jul 13 2023, 21:12 IST
Spectacular ultraviolet views of Mars revealed by NASA's MAVEN spacecraft
NASA mars rover
1/5 Stunning Views of Mars: An ultraviolet image of Mars captured by NASA's MAVEN spacecraft during the southern hemisphere's summer season in July 2022. Argyre Basin, Valles Marineris, and the southern polar ice cap are visible, revealing atmospheric haze, clouds, and shrinking ice. (NASA)
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2/5 An ultraviolet image of Mars taken in January 2023, showcasing the northern hemisphere after Mars had reached the farthest point in its orbit. The image displays white clouds, Valles Marineris, and numerous craters, while ozone buildup (depicted as magenta) during the northern winter can be observed. (NASA)
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3/5 MAVEN's unique vision: Image: NASA's MAVEN spacecraft, launched in November 2013, entered Mars' orbit in September 2014. The mission aims to explore the planet's upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the Sun and solar wind, shedding light on atmospheric loss and Mars' climate history. (NASA)
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4/5 Revealing Martian seasons: An explanation of how the changing seasons on Mars influence the planet's appearance in ultraviolet images. The tilt of Mars' rotational axis, similar to Earth's seasons, affects atmospheric phenomena and surface features, such as clouds, haze, and ice caps. (NASA)
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5/5 Unveiling Mars' secrets: Scientists use MAVEN's Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument to capture ultraviolet images of Mars. The IUVS measures wavelengths outside the visible spectrum, rendering them visible by assigning brightness levels to different ultraviolet ranges. This colorization technique highlights ozone, clouds, haze, and surface details. (NASA)
NASA mars rover
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While NASA found signs of life on Mars, its scientists couldn’t identify the exact source. (NASA)

Scientists have been searching for traces of life on Mars for over a hundred years. NASA has even sent the Rover Perseverance in hot pursuit of signs of life on Mars. Now, in a sensational announcement, it has been revealed that it successfully gathered multiple samples of organic matter, further strengthening the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars.

In the latest development, NASA's Perseverance Rover has observed diverse organic matter from Jezero Crater on the red planet. The study published in the journal Nature reveals that the presence and distribution of preserved organic matter on the surface of Mars can help scientists to get key information about the Martian carbon cycle and eventually the potential of the planet to host life throughout its history.

The findings of the study suggest that there is a possibility of a diversity of aromatic molecules prevalent on the Martian surface. Moreover, it added that these organic materials persist despite exposure to surface conditions. "These potential organic molecules are largely found within minerals linked to aqueous processes, indicating that these processes may have had a key role in organic synthesis, transport or preservation," the study mentioned.

What does organic matter indicate on Mars

Dr. Sunanda Sharma, Astrobiologist at NASA's Mars Perseverance Rover, says that the origin of the organic molecule on the surface of Mars can be from several sources. However, the diversification of the formation of the nature and distribution of organic molecules suggests that “different aqueous alteration or deposition processes occurred, possibly contributing to the diversity of organic matter still present.” Hence, scientists couldn't identify the exact source of the organic matter on Mars and will need to return the sample to Earth for detailed analysis in the lab.

NASA's Perseverance mission on Mars

NASA Perseverance's mission on Mars was launched on July 30, 2020, with its key objective to search for signs of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet. The rover will distinguish the planet's geology and past climate, laying the groundwork for future human exploration of the Red Planet.

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First Published Date: 13 Jul, 21:12 IST