Mounting evidence is suggesting that life once did exist on Mars. A team of international researchers now believe they have evidence to support the claim—evidence found on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity Rover.
According to a study in Astrobiology, special compounds known as thiophenes were found on Mars, and can also be found on Earth in crude oil and coal. The thiophene compound, according to some astrobiologists could be the evidence needed to prove ancient life forms once existed on Mars.
Dirk Schulze-Makuch, the lead author of the article and astrobiologist at Washington State University said that this is a step in the chain of evidence.
“We identified several biological pathways for thiophenes that seem more likely than chemical ones, but we still need proof.”
Although Schulze-Makuch’s team aren’t jumping to conclusions just yet, their study hints at the existence of bacteria in the organic thiophene compound in Martian soil.
“If you find thiophenes on Earth, then you would think they are biological, but on Mars, of course, the bar to prove that has to be quite a bit higher,” Schulze-Makuch said in a statement.
Two bio-essential elements, sulphur and carbon, make up most of the thiophene compound. What remains puzzling to scientists is whether the compound was produced through normal biological processes or a non-biological event. Some astrobiologists have even hinted that a meteor impact and the rising temperatures resulting were responsible.
Despite the various possibilities, including the signalling of life billions of years ago, the researchers are hoping that further red planet exploration will shed light on Mars’ history.
“As Carl Sagan said ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.’
I think the proof will really require that we actually send people there, and an astronaut looks through a microscope and sees a moving microbe,” Schulze-Makuch said.