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Study Shows Difficulty in Finding Evidence of Life on Mars

18 Sep 2020, 23:22 UTC
Study Shows Difficulty in Finding Evidence of Life on Mars
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IMAGE: NASA’s Perseverance rover, shown in this artistic rendering, will land at Mars’ Jezero Crater in February 2021 and will start gathering soil samples soon after that. Scientists are now concerned about acidic fluids, once on Mars, may have ruined the evidence of life contained in the clays. CREDIT: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Provided

A study from researchers at Cornell University and Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología using simulations involving clays and amino acids has given us pessimistic results. The study found that acidic fluids, like those that once flowed on Mars’ surface, may have destroyed evidence for life hidden within the iron-rich clays of the red planet.

Here’s what we are hoping: the clays on Mars, like on Earth, are organized into layers. Within those layers, again like on Earth, is where the evidence of biological life can become trapped and well preserved. These markers can include lipids and proteins and such. I’m not a biologist or a paleontologist, so I won’t mess up the details.

The issue is that acidic fluids can destroy this biological evidence. The researchers tried to preserve an amino acid called glycine within a clay. The clay had already been exposed to those acidic fluids. They then exposed ...

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