Researchers think they might have found a way to prove if organic matter on Mars actually originated on Mars, overthrowing the widely held belief that any organic material on the surface came from Earth.
Current thinking suggests that any organic material (not life, but a building block towards it) found by rovers like Curiosity is a result of contamination from the Earth.
Now though researchers from the University of Heidelberg have carried out a number of experiments on a meteorite that crashed in Australia and have discovered something interesting.
The organic matter they found (chloromethene) matched that found during the Curiosity and Viking experiments -- implying that the organic matter found on Mars either arrived there from meteorites or has been on Mars all along.
Frank Keppler is the biogeochemist who's leading the research and he believes there's even a way of differentiating between the organic material found on the meteorites and that on Mars, proving once and for all if there really is native organic matter on the red planet.
He has something of an uphill struggle however. With over 50,000 tonnes of micrometeorites hitting Mars every year the overwhelming probability is that any organic matter has come from these.
By looking at the isotopes inside the chloromethene Keppler and his team were able to conclusively prove that the Australian meteorite differed from the same organic matter on Earth.
This test now means that when they have the right equipment on Mars, they'll be able to find out for sure if the organic matter is either meteorite-based, Earth-based or -- more excitingly -- if it originated from Mars itself.Suggest a correction