Life On Mars: A Meteorite Gives Up Its Secrets

Micrometeorites, the most abundant material that falls on Mars, contain an organic carbon. Image: Bastian Baecker (University of Heidelberg and Max Planck Institute for Chemistry) and Luigi Folco (University of Pisa)

European scientists say the presence of the organic compound chloromethane in a Mars meteorite may be evidence of organic material in the planet’s soil.

Replication back on Earth of the Mars lander experiments on a meteorite sample reveal that the chloromethane derives from organic materials.

Chloromethane has been detected on two separate Mars missions but some studies have questioned whether this chemical is a product of thermal reactions of organic material in soil or a terrestrial contaminant.

Frank Keppler of the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and colleagues used the Murchison meteorite which fell in Australia in 1969 to replicate the Mars lander experiment.

Analyses of the chloromethane from the Murchison sample reveal a distinct isotopic signature, a unique chemical fingerprint, which implies it is formed from organic material of extra-terrestrial origin.

The results are reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

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