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Martian Meteorites Analyzed for Compounds Which Show Signatures of Life

Monday, March 18, 2013 8:08 am EDT

Meteorites from Mars present scientists with one of the only samples from the Red Planet which can be studied directly in laboratories on earth. Research in Meteoritics & Planetary Science reports the analysis of the Roberts Massif meteorite (RBT 04262), which was ejected from Mars 2.9 Myr ago and laid preserved in the Antarctic after impact. The team analysed the samples for traces of amino acid and nucleobase content as these compounds are essential for all known life on Earth and are therefore targets in the search for potential Martian biomarkers or prebiotic chemistry.

The team did not detect any nucleobases above the detection limit in formic acid extracts; however, the presence of low (to absent) levels of several proteinogenic amino acids and a lack of nucleobases suggest that the meteorite fragment remained uncontaminated after impact.

Traditionally studies strongly indicated that all amino acids found in Martian meteorites are the result of contamination following impact. However, the results show that RBT 04642 provides the first reasonable suggestion of endogenous amino acids in a Martian meteorite.

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