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Organic matter preserved in 3-billion-year-old mudstones at Gale crater, Mars

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Science  08 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6393, pp. 1096-1101
DOI: 10.1126/science.aas9185

Measuring martian organics and methane

The Curiosity rover has been sampling on Mars for the past 5 years (see the Perspective by ten Kate). Eigenbrode et al. used two instruments in the SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) suite to catch traces of complex organics preserved in 3-billion-year-old sediments. Heating the sediments released an array of organics and volatiles reminiscent of organic-rich sedimentary rock found on Earth. Most methane on Earth is produced by biological sources, but numerous abiotic processes have been proposed to explain martian methane. Webster et al. report atmospheric measurements of methane covering 3 martian years and found that the background level varies with the local seasons. The seasonal variation provides an important clue for determining the origin of martian methane.

Science, this issue p. 1096, p. 1093; see also p. 1068