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Carbon Points to Ancient life on Mars

MarsCarbon discovered on Mars could point to ancient life that once existed on the planet. Credit: NASA/JPL

A piece of sediment discovered by NASA’s Curiosity Rover earlier this month contained carbon — a possible trace of ancient life on Mars.

The Curiosity Rover has been analyzing Mars’s surface for the past decade, exploring the Gale Crater, a formation that was the site of a body of water 3 billion years ago. It was there that the rover found deposits of sediments that contained carbon isotopes.

There are two types of carbon isotopes that are typically found in nature, carbon-12, and carbon-13. The Curiosity team found a far greater amount of carbon-12, the lighter of the two isotopes, forming weaker chemical bonds and is subject to chemical reactions at an accelerated rate compared to carbon-13. The latter quality makes carbon-12 more common across biological compounds.

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