NASA May Have Found Evidence of Ancient Bugs on Mars
NASA's Curiosity rover has been roaming the Martian landscape for the better part of the last decade. Now, scientists say the mission may have found evidence life once existed on the planet years ago. A statement recently released by the National Aeronautics and Space Association details a study in which researchers found a particular type carbon commonly associated with life here on Earth.
As the outfit is quick to point out, the existence of carbon alone on the planet doesn't conclusively prove the existence of biology such as ancient bacteria, microbes, or other associated "bugs." It does, however, at least raise another question researchers will further explore the answer to.
"We're finding things on Mars that are tantalizingly interesting, but we would really need more evidence to say we've identified life," former Curiosity investigator Paul Mahaffy said in a new posting by NASA. "So we're looking at what else could have caused the carbon signature we're seeing, if not life."
The big reveal was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on January 18th, and scientists proposed three hypotheses with the find. First off, the carbon could be a result of ancient microbial life, which would prove that life did, in fact, exist on the Red Planet at one point.
They then followed that up with a pair of non-biological explanations: one suggesting the carbon is a result of an interaction between ultraviolet light and carbon dioxide and two, the carbon could have been left behind after a major cosmic event millions of years ago.
"The hardest thing is letting go of Earth and letting go of that bias that we have and really trying to get into the fundamentals of the chemistry, physics and environmental processes on Mars," Goddard astrobiologist Jennifer L. Eigenbrode added in the post.
"We need to open our minds and think outside the box," Eigenbrode concluded, "and that's what this paper does."
The full study can be read here.