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Monday, December 03, 2012

Mars Rover Detects Organic Compounds


NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has detected several simple, simple carbon-based organic compounds on Mars, but it remains unclear whether they were formed during an experiment or whether they contain elements indigenous to the planet, reported The National Geographic.
 
Curiosity rover used its full array of instruments to analyze Martian soil for the first time, and found a complex chemistry within the Martian soil, planetary scientists said today in California. Water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances, among other ingredients, showed up in samples Curiosity's arm delivered to an analytical laboratory inside the rover. 
 
The rover's laboratory includes the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite and the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. SAM used three methods to analyze gases given off from the dusty sand when it was heated in a tiny oven. One class of substances SAM checks for is organic compounds -- carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life.    
            
The possible discovery of organics—or carbon-based compounds bonded to hydrogen, also called hydrocarbons—could have major implications for the mission's search for more complex organic material.
 
The organic compounds discovered—different combinations of carbon, hydrogen, and chlorine—are the same or similar to chlorinated organics detected in the mid-1970s by the Viking landers, reported Marc Kaufman.             

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