In December 1984, a team of researchers found a meteorite weighing nearly two kilograms in the Allan Hills region of Antarctica. It was different from any previously found and everything indicates it comes from nothing more and swims less than from Mars. Among the many analyzes carried out on this rock, the most recent allowed find organic molecules containing nitrogen, essential for life on a planet.
It is believed that the meteorite is was formed 4000 million years ago on Mars. Researchers estimate that around 15 million years ago something hit the Red Planet and knocked it off the rock into space. After roaming the solar system, it finally fell silent in Antarctica thirteen thousand years ago. If so, the rock is practically a time capsule that lets us know what Mars looked like billions of years ago.
Meteorite samples ALH 84001. Via Koike et al. (2020) Nature Communications.
ALH 840001 is the name by which the meteorite was baptized at the time. It was not without controversy, various analyzes they found fossils thereAlthough none of this could demonstrate the presence of life on Mars, or where the meteorite came from. The most rudimentary technologies and methods which contaminated the samples invalidated the analyzes.
Organic molecules containing nitrogen
In a recent study published in Nature, a group of scientists from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Tokyo Institute of Technology (ELSI) demonstrate how they were able to identify nitrogen-containing organic compounds in the meteorite. It is an essential part of life as we know it on Earth. This again opens the hypothesis that raises the idea that life could have been on Mars millions of years ago.
To find these organic molecules with nitrogen, scientists made a spectroscopic analysis. The results were compared with those of another rock sample taken from an area near the meteorite location. This way they were able to verify that the composition was different.
Martian samples containing nitrogen This is not the first time they have been detectedNASA’s Curiosity rover also found similar results directly on the planet. In this case, however, the samples are much older (4,000 million years old in principle), giving a better understanding of what Mars looked like then, and not what it is now.
The harsh weather conditions on the surface of Mars make it virtually impossible to find the remains of life and organic compounds. however can be maintained below the surface for billions of years, this is what appears to have happened with the samples found in ALH 840001.