Carbon Signature on Mars

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Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Video imagery:

·       NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars (“selfie”): NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
·       Stimson sandstone formation in Gale crater, Mars, captured by Curiosity rover: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
·       NASA’s Curiosity rover drill hole on Mars: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
·       Hubble Space Telescope image of Mars: NASA, ESA, STScI

Writer: Leah Ramsay
Designer: Leah Hustak
Science review: Dr. Alexandra Lockwood
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Objects and gases of various colors in outer space. Text, News from the Universe
January 26, 2022. Carbon Signature on Mars
NASA's Curiosity rover has collected samples from the surface of Mars with a surprising amount of carbon 12.
On Earth, a high amount of carbon 12 is associated with biology.
More tests are needed to figure out what high amounts of carbon 12 mean in the very different Martian environment.
Scientists have three possible explanations to test: 1) The carbon comes from ancient bacterial life on Mars.
2) The samples result from the interaction of ultraviolet light with carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere.
3) Mars passed through a huge cosmic cloud containing the carbon hundreds of millions of years ago.
Which scenario took place on Mars? Was the red planet ever home to life? Further tests and more samples will help reveal the answers.
This news was brought to you in part by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD