The many orbiters, landers and rovers have, and continue to, send back an increasing wealth of information about Mars. Sometimes though, we are lucky enought to have a piece of Mars come to us instead. A bunch of Martian meteorites have been found over the years, in places like Antarctica. They offer a unique, hands-on peek into the geological history of the Red Planet. Now, one of them has yielded more clues to the possibility of life having started there, it was reported on June 11, 2013.
The meteorite, called MIL 090030, is being studied by scientists at the University of Hawaii at Manoa NASA Astrobiology Institute (UHNAI). They have found high concentrations of boron, a chemical which is thought to be necessary in the formation of RNA (when in its oxidized form, borate), a key building block of life.
According to James Stephenson, a UHNAI postdoctoral fellow, “Borates may have been important for the origin of life on Earth because they can stabilize ribose, a crucial component of RNA. In early life RNA is thought to have been the informational precursor to DNA.”
The meteorite was discovered by the Antarctic Search for Meteorites team during its expedition in 2009-2010.
The boron was found within veins of clay inside the meteorite; the abundance of the boron is more than ten times higher than that seen in any previous meteorite.
It will be interesting to see what else the two current rovers on Mars come up with, as both have been studying clay deposits as well, in different regions of the planet. Curiosity has already found clays near Mount Sharp in Gale crater and Opportunity has also found some small deposits, but is currently heading towards some much bigger ones.
The new study was published on June 9, 2013 in PLOS One.
This article was first published on Examiner.com.