Research

Hydrogen and asteroids could have engendered life on Mars

Once upon a time life could exist on Mars- this is evidenced by a new study conducted by the space agency NASA. It involved information on the composition of the Martian soil, collected by the rover "Curiosity", and a laboratory simulation of the ancient atmosphere of the Red Planet. During the experiment, scientists found that the hydrogen-saturated atmosphere of Mars could interact with burning asteroids and give rise to a key element of life - nitrogen compounds, or nitrates.

Active nitrogen forms are reallyimportant component of life. Without them, there can be no proteins, nucleic acids and other organic compounds that are extremely important even for the simplest organisms. It was these important elements that were found by the “Curiosity” apparatus during the study of the soil of the Martian crater Gale. The scientists had a question: how did they get there?

To find the answer to this question, the team inled by Professor Rafael Navarro-Gonzalez, conducted a laboratory experiment. To begin with, she recreated the early Martian atmosphere by placing a mixture of hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide gases in a flask. The team then imitated the shock waves produced by the asteroids when they hit the atmosphere — for this, pulses from an infrared laser beam were used. To the great surprise of scientists, later this reaction really formed vital nitrates.

The researchers were particularly surprised by the fact thatthe more hydrogen was contained in the simulated atmosphere, the more actively the nitrates were formed. This was illogical, since hydrogen reduces the concentration of oxygen, which, in turn, is important for the formation of nitrates. According to planetary geochemist Jennifer Stern, the presence of hydrogen in the atmosphere of ancient Mars could be important not only for the origin of life, but also for maintaining a sufficient surface temperature of the planet and preserving water in liquid form.

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