The innovative Curiosity Rover has discovered an organic compound on Mars. This compound can also be found on Earth in coal, crude oil and white truffles.
An organic compound found in coal, white truffles and crude oil, thiophenes, was recently discovered on Mars. Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist from Washington State University, has theorised that its presence would be consistent with the presence of early life on Mars.
In a paper published in Astrobiology, Schulze-Makuch and Jacob Heinz of the Technische Universität, Berlin, discuss the possible pathways for thiophenes’ origins on Mars. This research suggests that a biological process, possibly involving in bacteria, may be the root to the organic compound’s existence on Mars.
“We identified several biological pathways for thiophenes that seem more likely than chemical ones, but we still need proof,
“If you find thiophenes on Earth, then you would think they are biological, but on Mars, of course, the bar to prove that has to be quite a bit higher,” Dirk Schulze-Makuch said.
The molecular structure of thiophene
The molecular structure of thiophene consists of four carbon atoms and a sulphur atom arranged in a ring, and both carbon and sulphur, are bio-essential elements. Schulze-Makuch and Heinz could not exclude non-biological processes leading to the existence of these compounds on Mars. Thiophenes can also be created through thermochemical sulphate reduction, a process that involves a set of compounds being heated to 248 degrees Fahrenheit or more.
According to the study: “The question whether organic compounds occur on Mars remained unanswered for decades. However, the recent discovery of various classes of organic matter in martian sediments by the Curiosity rover seems to strongly suggest that indigenous organic compounds exist on Mars.
“One intriguing group of detected organic compounds were thiophenes, which typically occur on Earth in kerogen, coal, and crude oil as well as in stromatolites and microfossils. Here we provide a brief synopsis of conceivable pathways for the generation and degradation of thiophenes on Mars.
“We show that the origin of thiophene derivatives can either be biotic or abiotic, for example, through sulfur incorporation in organic matter during early diagenesis.”