In Brief

Organic matter found on Mars

Nasa researchers remain unsure of the source of the material

Nasa’s Curiosity rover has discovered complex organic matter in a dried-up lakebed on Mars.

The material was found after the rover drilled into the surface of a 3.5 billion-year-old mudstone at the bottom of the Gale crater.

Researchers have been quick to point out that the discovery does not necessarily mean that there is, or has been, life on the red planet.

However, CNN says the organic matter “can be one of several things: a record detailing ancient life, a food source for life or something that exists in the place of life”.

“While we don’t know the source of the material, the amazing consistency of the results makes me think we have a slam-dunk signal for organics on Mars,” said Jennifer Eigenbrode, a biogeochemist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.

Researchers say they will require further samples that have not been irradiated in order to get a clearer picture of the origin of the organic matter.

In its search for the compounds, the Curiosity rover “only scrapes off the top five centimetres” of stone, however ExoMars's Moma lab which is planned to be launched in 2020 will go down two metres”, the ABC reports.

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