Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Absence of organic compounds on surface of Mars explained by new theory

Date:
June 10, 2010
Source:
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Summary:
The ongoing search for evidence of past or present life on Mars includes efforts to identify organic compounds such as proteins in Martian soil, but their absence to date remains a mystery. A new theory to explain what happens to these carbon-based molecules is presented in a new article.

Astrobiology published in print and online 10 times a year.
Credit: Copyright Mary Ann Liebert Inc., publishers

The ongoing search for evidence of past or present life on Mars includes efforts to identify organic compounds such as proteins in Martian soil, but their absence to date remains a mystery. A new theory to explain what happens to these carbon-based molecules is presented in an article published in Astrobiology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

"There may be no 'safe haven' for these organic molecules on Mars," conclude Ilya Shkrob, Sergey Chemerisov, and Timothy Marin, from Argonne National Laboratory and Benedictine University, in Illinois, in their article entitled "Photocatalytic Decomposition of Carboxylated Molecules on Light-Exposed Martian Regolith and its Relation to Methane Production on Mars."

Unlike on Earth, where plants and other organisms convert carbon dioxide and water into organic compounds via photosynthesis, the authors propose that the opposite happens on the surface of Mars. The iron oxides that make up Martian soil and give the planet its distinctive red color are photocatalysts. They use energy from ultraviolet light absorbed through the thin Martian atmosphere to oxidize carbon-containing organic molecules trapped in soil particles, converting them to carbon dioxide and gases such as methane.

The authors present study data to support this model and to explain why it might not be realistic to rely on the discovery of proteins, amino acids, and other carbon-containing compounds in the upper soil layers of Mars to determine whether life forms are or have been present on the planet.

"This is an interesting result and may be an important step in solving the enduring mystery of organics on Mars," says Christopher P. McKay, Senior Editor of Astrobiology and Research Scientist at NASA Ames Research Center. "We see organics in many places in the solar system but have not been able to detect them on Mars -- the planet that we think had the most Earth-like conditions. Why? Could it be our instrument approach has been wrong? Or could it be that there is some chemistry on Mars that is actively destroying organics? This work points toward this latter explanation. Mars may have a self cleaning surface. If so, we may have to dig deeply to find any organic materials."

"The importance of drilling below the Martian surface for rocks and soils that might retain preserved organics is certainly on the minds of future mission scientists," says Sherry L. Cady, PhD, Editor of Astrobiology and Associate Professor in the Department of Geology at Portland State University. "The possible 2018 joint ESA-NASA mission is a case in point."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ilya A. Shkrob, Sergey D. Chemerisov, Timothy W. Marin. Photocatalytic Decomposition of Carboxylated Molecules on Light-Exposed Martian Regolith and Its Relation to Methane Production on Mars. Astrobiology, 2010; 10 (4): 425 DOI: 10.1089/ast.2009.0433

Cite This Page:

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.. "Absence of organic compounds on surface of Mars explained by new theory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100610154457.htm>.
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.. (2010, June 10). Absence of organic compounds on surface of Mars explained by new theory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100610154457.htm
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.. "Absence of organic compounds on surface of Mars explained by new theory." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100610154457.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

Newsy (Aug. 23, 2014) The private spaceflight company says it is preparing a thorough investigation into Friday's mishap. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) Russian cosmonauts say they've found evidence of sea plankton on the International Space Station's windows. NASA is a little more skeptical. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space to Ground: Hello Georges

Space to Ground: Hello Georges

NASA (Aug. 18, 2014) Europe's ATV-5 delivers new science and the crew tests smart SPHERES. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) The Chasqui I, hand-delivered into orbit by a Russian cosmonaut, is one of hundreds of small satellites set to go up in the next few years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins