Martian Meteorite: Scientists Discover Various Organic Compounds

Martian Meteorite: Scientists Discover Various Organic Compounds

A multinational team of scientists has discovered abundant organic magnesium compounds and polyaromatic chemicals in Tissint meteorite. It landed in Morocco near Tissint on July 18, 2011.

The Tissint meteorite. Credit: Ludovic Ferriere. Natural History Museum Vienna.

The Tissint meteorite. Credit: Ludovic Ferriere. Natural History Museum Vienna.

Tissint was one of five Martian meteorites observed when they were brought to Earth.

The Mars sample was created hundreds of thousands of years ago by our neighbor planet. It was then launched into space via a violent incident.

Lead author, Dr. Philippe Schmitt Kopplin (a researcher at Helmholtz Munich’s Technical University of Munich), said that Mars and Earth share crucial aspects of their gross planet evolution.

The key ingredients for life’s evolution and habitability are water and organic molecules. Habitable areas in Mars’ deep subsurface have been identified that could support microbial life.

It was also found that methane and organic molecules were present on Mars. The origin of these molecules remains a matter of debate.

Dr. Schmitt Kopplin and his colleagues were able analyze Tissint meteorite’s organic inventory. This revealed a connection between specific mineralogy and the types and diversity of organic molecules.

They created the largest ever catalog of all the organic compounds that were found in Martian meteorites or samples collected by rover scientists.

This work revealed details about the evolution of processes in Mars’ crust and mantle, particularly with respect to abiotic organics formed through water-rock interactions.

Particularly interesting was the large number of organic magnesium compounds. These organic molecules, which are not normally seen on Mars but offer insights into the high-pressure and high-temperature geochemistry of deep Martian interior, and suggest a link between the carbon cycle of the planet and its mineral evolution.

Andrew Steele from the Carnegie Institution for Science said, “Understanding how these rich organic resources were created will give new information about Mars’ habitability as well as the possible reactions that might lead to life.”

Future missions will be able to return samples from Mars that provide unprecedented information on the dynamics, formation and stability of organic compounds in Martian environments.

These findings were published in The Journal on January 11, 2023. Science Advances.


Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin The authors and others. 2023. The complex carbonaceous material in Tissint Martian meteorites gives insight into Mars’ diversity of organic geochemistry. Science Advances 9 (2); doi: 10.1126/sciadv.add6439

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