That doesn't mean they've found life, but it's a good indication Mars could have sustained life in the past.
Organic molecules are the basic building blocks of life - and they are also left behind by living organisms. The host of the session, assistant director of science for communications in NASA's Planetary Science Division Michelle Thaller, began by clearing up any rumors that the agency would announce that they had found alien life.
"With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.
The scientists behind experiments conducted by the Curiosity rover are today reporting two results that make the Red Planet's story even more interesting.
Two rock samples taken by NASA's Curiosity rover were found to contain organic molecules. But the organic molecules identified by the car-sized rover then were too few and ambiguous. Mars2020 will shed light on the organic molecules-and prepare a sample that some future mission could bring back to Earth.
The super exciting part is that the method used to detect these chemicals indicates they're not floating around in the rock all alone, but are smaller pieces of organic chemistry that's been torn off even bigger, more complicated materials. The Viking Project was the first United States mission to safely land spacecraft on the Martian surface, as well as send back images. "The first one would be life, which we don't know about". Still, this discovery is very encouraging in the context of what we know about Mars in the distant past.
Another team of scientists, led by Christopher Webster from the California Institute of Technology, presented evidence that methane concentrations detected on Mars follow strong seasonal variations. Hell comes from Mars, NASA, and it's only been two years since we cleaned up the last incident of Mars Hell.
Leading contenders have included some sort of chemical reaction based on a rock called olivine, meteorites dropping organic materials into the atmosphere, or a release from a sub-surface reservoir close to the surface.
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Meanwhile, the scientists hope that the newly discovered methane cycle could lead them to understand where the gas originates and if it is a sign of life. "It tells us that this ancient environment on Mars could have supported life", Eigenbrode said. So they looked elsewhere.
Earlier today, NASA reported that its Mars Curiosity rover made some curious new discoveries on the Red Planet. That's because the surface of Mars is constantly bombarded with radiation that can break down organic compounds. So like the organic molecules, it's not an unambiguous biosignature.
With future missions, scientists may be able to figure out whether or not the organic compounds are indeed biosignatures.
The new study reveals the discovery of complex and diverse organic compounds in more detail, however. "But it doesn't tell us that life was there".
The vast majority of methane on Earth, at least, has a biological origin, so its presence on Mars is significant to the possibility of actually discovering life on Mars.
"I'm equally as fascinated by the idea that life never got started on Mars in the first place".
Potential contaminants were analyzed and accounted for, so the results are the most conclusive yet.