Mars could be a tasty broth for young lives





Martian minerals dissolved in the groundwater may contain a key building block of life phosphate than the dissolved minerals in the world. In any case, it was the conclusion Laboratory, has spent the physical simulation, which was to show the potential habitability of ancient environment of the red planet.

This news comes just a couple of days later, after a prominent chemist offered his theory that Mars was full of the necessary chemical elements – in particular, boron, molybdenum and oxygen, which could produce a molecule of RNA. RNA is the precursor of DNA, and thus life as we know it.

Both studies have drawn attention to the idea that life on Earth came from outer space – the so-called theory of panspermia. However, they may not be right at the same time. According to one theory, Mars had to be full of liquid water on the other – as dry as the desert.

The latest work takes into account the phosphate, a molecule consisting of one phosphorus atom and four oxygen atoms. Phosphates form structural backbone of DNA and RNA, however, many organisms use ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to store the energy obtained from food.

“From what we know so far, without it life can not exist”, – says Christopher Adcock from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. – “It is necessary for biological functions on several levels.”

Mineral Broth

The problem is that it is difficult to understand how the early Earth could be enough phosphates, which have generated a spark of life. This material is more stable in the solid form, so the phosphate, which is present on Earth in the early periods of the origin of life are likely to swim, when dissolved minerals in the Earth’s oceans. But most of the phosphate minerals in the world, for example, fluorapatite, dissolve slowly and with difficulty to form a water-based solution so that their concentration is relatively low.

Meanwhile, studies of Martian meteorites suggest that Mars fosfatosoderzhaschie minerals are slightly different from the earth. Instead of fluorapatite on Mars occurs hlorapatit, which takes the place of chlorine fluoride. On the red planet also has a phosphate mineral called Merrill, which was not found on Earth.

Moreover, these rovers “Spirit” and “Opportunity” to suggest that the Red Planet has a tenfold amount of phosphates Earth. Question leads us to the fact that the Martian phosphates easily dissolved in water .

“Fluorapatite is extremely interesting, and people have done a lot of work on it, because it is very important in the world” – says Adcock. – “There are few who made it to the other minerals, as they have no relationship to the Earth. But it is extremely relevant for Mars. ”

Low barrier

Because of the rarity and chlorapatite merillita on Earth, Adcock and his colleagues decided to make these minerals from the ground. These compounds were synthesized pieces in a furnace, and then soaking them in conditions simulating groundwater. After several batches of solution with varying degrees of acidity, the command data received on how quickly dissolve minerals and how much remains in solution.

It was found that the release rate for the phosphate rock Mars approximately 45 times higher than the earth, so the concentration of phosphates in the early wet Mars is twice higher than in the world.

“This phosphate barrier faced by the Earth’s life during the descent, may not have been an obstacle for potential Martian origin of life” – says Adcock.

His conclusion is consistent with the data that the chemist Steve Benner posted this week at a conference in Florence geochemists. Recall his theory is that Mars is young, and not the Earth was the cradle of the chemical for the production of RNA molecules.

Wet or dry?

According to Benner, the young Mars possessed atmosphere, replete with oxygen, which reacted with boron and molybdenum oxidize these elements. The compounds could act as catalysts for the formation of RNA. The molecules of life, or even the simplest organisms that could subsequently fall to Earth by meteors.

Scenario Benner necessary that Mars was a desert, as the RNA falls apart if you want to build it in the water. But his script does not say anything about where took phosphates in Martian RNA. Adcock proposal, among other things, requires the ocean, which was dissolved phosphate minerals, but does not specify how the destabilization of the RNA was stopped in the water.

“There is a specific variation: one proposal requires water, the other vice versa,” – says Matthew Pasek of the University of South Florida in Tampa, did not participate in any of the projects. If Mars were cycles of humidity and drought, oceans or continents crossed the desert, it would solve the issue. – “In general, I believe, was held a very interesting and useful work. But there was a lot more questions than it was in the beginning. ”

Benner is optimistic about the situation. He says the team is considering Adcock Martian chemistry for the same reason as it is: to solve chemical problems that geologists can not solve in a young earth.

“As required RNA ribose, as it requires phosphate. Just as geologists tell us that we can not recreate the conditions of the early Earth, so that made possible the accumulation of ribose, so we can not re-create the conditions in which the phosphate would be soluble. In this case, the work of our two go hand in hand “, – said the chemist.

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