Mars is the next compelling candidate for life beyond Earth.
For about 1.5 billion years, the planet appeared to be Earth-like.
Because copious amounts of liquid surface water have flowed, Mars may have evolved life.
But finding “organic matter” in the Martian soil isn’t even a useful clue.
Yes, the Perseverance rover found them, just like Curiosity did before them.
However, “organic molecules” simply mean “molecules containing carbon plus hydrogen.”
Most organic molecules are prebiotic: they are formed by inorganic chemical processes.
There are currently 256 unique organic species known to reside in interstellar dust clouds.
These compounds include alcohols, acids, aldehydes, amines and hydrocarbons.
So also various cyanides and ethyl formate: found in abundance in the galactic center.
Wherever new stars form, further variants of organic molecules arise abiotically.
Complex molecules with carbon rings – polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – form ubiquitously.
Protoplanetary disks around newborn stars contain formaldehyde and methanol.
As stellar systems evolve, dense bodies form that concentrate simple molecules and allow for synthetic reactions.
Remaining protoplanetary material persists as asteroids and Kuiper Belt objects.
The organics in them are stunning.
These include fullerenes, alkanes and over 70 types of amino acids.
It would have been shocking if such connections did not exist on Mars.
Sample return missions could reveal Martian life.
However, these discovered “organics” do not provide sufficient evidence.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in pictures, visuals and no more than 200 words. talk less; smile more