News & AnalysisPlanetary Science

Homegrown Organic Matter Found on Mars, But No Life

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Science  25 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6084, pp. 970
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6084.970

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When Curiosity, NASA's next Mars rover, arrives at the Red Planet on 6 August, it will be searching for the ancient remains of environments that could have supported microscopic life eons ago. The rover will also be checking for a particular kind of fossil: molecular traces of long-dead life. But a discovery announced online this week in Science will add another layer of complexity to the interpretation of any geochemical markers of past life that Curiosity may find. Researchers have discovered organic matter encased in once-molten martian rocks, demonstrating that the planet has been producing its own organic matter for eons with no help from life.