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Scientists recently discovered a “huge diversity” of organic compounds in a Martian meteorite, including one that has never been seen on Mars before, Live Science reported.
The study centered on the Tissint meteorite that impacted in the Moroccan city of Tissint in July 2011.
A research team analyzed the meteorite and found examples of at least five different types of organic compounds. These compounds are molecules that contain carbon atoms bonded with other elements, such as hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen.
While organic compounds are present in all life forms, they can also be formed through non-biological processes.
In the Tissint meteorite’s case, the team uncovered a number of compounds, including aliphatic-branched carboxylic acids, which have similar structures to the amino acids that make up proteins.
They also came across organic magnesium compounds, which are “extremely abundant” throughout the meteorite and have never been found in Martian samples before.
But they explained that the compounds were formed through a non-biological process: Instead, they were created in the high-pressure and high-temperature conditions of Mars’ ancient mantle.
Although the search for Martian life has yet to find any, the authors said their research can help teach scientists new things about the Red Planet.
“Understanding the processes and sequence of events that shaped this rich organic bounty will reveal new details about Mars’ habitability and potentially about the reactions that could lead to the formation of life,” study co-author Andrew Steele.