A Reduced Organic Carbon Component in Martian Basalts

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Science  24 May 2012:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1220715

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The source and nature of carbon on Mars has been a subject of intense speculation. We report the results of confocal Raman imaging spectroscopy on 11 martian meteorites, spanning about 4.2 billion years of martian history. Ten of the meteorites contain abiotic macromolecular carbon (MMC) phases detected in association with small oxide grains included within high-temperature minerals. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were detected along with MMC phases in Dar al Gani 476. The association of organic carbon within magmatic minerals indicates that martian magmas favored precipitation of reduced carbon species during crystallization. The ubiquitous distribution of abiotic organic carbon in martian igneous rocks is important for understanding the martian carbon cycle and has implications for future missions to detect possible past martian life.

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