Organic molecules generally include any compound related to carbon, and may contain oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and other elements. Organic molecules are often associated with life, but their existence can be the result of “abiotic” or non-biological activities.
Previous research detected many organic chemicals in the Red Planet’s rocks, as well as organic methane gas in the Martian atmosphere. However, the origins of these compounds are still controversial. For years, scientists have debated how the organic chemicals in ALH 84001 are formed.
To solve this mystery, the researchers analyzed the tiny minerals inside the meteorite. They found that the organic compounds in the meteorites were related to minerals such as serpentine. Serpentine is a dark green mineral, sometimes mottled or mottled like snakeskin, associated with once-wet environments. (Read also; NASA Brings Six Miles from Mars to Earth )
The findings suggest the organic chemicals in meteorite ALH 84001 may have formed due to water-rock interactions similar to those known to occur on Earth. One process, called serpentinization, occurs when volcanic rock rich in iron or magnesium chemically interacts with circulating water, changing its mineral properties and producing hydrogen.
Another interaction is the process of carbonation, which involves rock reacting with slightly acidic water containing dissolved carbon dioxide to form carbonate minerals. The researchers concluded that the organic compounds in meteoroid ALH 84001 were formed when volcanic rock interacted with salty fluids early in the formation of Mars. (Read also; 6 Locations on Earth that Are Most Similar to Mars, Number 3 Frequently Visited by Tourists )
“This finding explains how well Mars can support life and other purposes. Taken together, this study demonstrates how some of the building blocks of elements essential to life on early Earth were also produced elsewhere in our solar system, such as Saturn’s moon Enceladus,” said Andrew Steele, an astrobiologist and senior staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science. in Washington DC, who led this new research to Space.com quoted by SINDOnews, Friday (1/14/2022).
This new research is not the first time, because meteorites have long attracted the attention of scientists to investigate the origin of life. There has been much controversy regarding the meteoroid ALH 84001 including the existence of microbial fossils from Mars. Many studies now suggest abiotic factors may help explain these apparent fossils.
“I think this debate about meteorites has polarized the views of a number of communities over the years. I hope the results of this new study inspire debate in a positive way,” added Steele. (Read also; Bring Photo Evidence, This Time Traveler Claims to Have Been to Mars )