The Curiosity rover, a lonely little robot who has been our eyes on Mars, has been busy. Curiosity has been digging around, taking soil samples for NASA scientists to research. Well, while digging around the 3 billion-year-old mudstone of the Gale crater, Curiosity has found organic material! Combined with the methane found in the atmosphere, this is an exciting discovery. These act as sort of chemical clues that could help us get a glimpse of what might have existed at one point in Mars.
Methane is necessary for life. It's a simple compound that is also found on other planets that could also theoretically have hosted life at one point in their history.
As reported by CNN:
"We have greatly expanded our search for organic compounds, which is fundamental in the search for life," said Paul Mahaffy, study author and director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
The two studies build on and advance smaller detections of atmospheric methane and ancient organic compounds on Mars. Those detections either caused debate or lacked the context for understanding, the researchers said.
But Curiosity's data are providing a clearer and more conclusive picture of the conditions and processes on Mars -- and what it may have been like on the Red Planet billions of years ago, when conditions were more suitable for life.
"With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. "I'm confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet."
Pretty exciting, right? Stay tuned as we continue to watch the skies.....