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Boron Findings On Mars Might End Celestial Saga.

Curiosity, the tiny rover exploring the Gale Crater on Mars, has sent back data confirming that the assigned area offered a habitable environment for micro organisms at some point in time.

Scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in a (;jsessionid=AE7D09FA6B8F05FBFCD60353815E0690.f03t02) paper  published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters said the finding of boron by the rover has thrown open the possibility of whether life ever existed on the planet.

"Borates are one possible bridge from simple organic molecules to RNA. Without RNA, you have no life. The presence of boron tells us that, if organics were present on Mars, these chemical reactions could have occurred," said Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author on the paper.

RNA or ribonucleic acid is the building block of life. It is made of a sugar called ribose. These RNA strands contain genetic information that has the ability to clone itself. This information is complex and basically the blueprint of our physical being.

Synthesis of ribose sugar which leads to RNA formation is a tricky process. The sugar is highly soluble in water. The sugar is very unstable and will decompose before RNA formation is possible. This is where good-guy boron comes in.

Boron when dissolved in water becomes a borate. This borate ensures stability of the ribose sugar in the water. It keeps the sugar stable enough in the water to ensure RNA formation, thus creating life.

"We detected borates in a crater on Mars that's 3.8 billion years old, younger than the likely formation of life on Earth," said Gasda. "Essentially, this tells us that the conditions from which life could have potentially grown may have existed on ancient Mars, independent from Earth.

The boron was found in calcium sulfate mineral veins, meaning the boron was present in Mars groundwater, and provides another indication that some of the groundwater in Gale Crater was habitable.

Currently the rover is climbing a layered Martian mountain. A chemical analysis camera called ChemCam on the rover is analyzing the environment to find out more about these prehistoric lakes and wet environments, and how they morphed over billions of years.

The study of each layer of sediments present in the walls of these reservoirs could provide us a layer by layer time line of composition of water at that point. The walls would have eroded into the flowing water, the presence of favorable quantities of boron in the wall sediments could help establish the time when micro organisms could have existed.

The analysis of ground samples will tell us the composition of water at that time. The study of the boron could help establish how life on Mars could have occurred.

Since 2012, Curiosity has been providing us with comprehensive data that is nudging us closer toward solving the Mars puzzle. With compelling studies yielding results and future projects like SHERLOC and SuperCam poised to be added to Curiosity to improve the equipment collecting on-field data, the question whether life ever existed on the planet is closer to being answered.

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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Date:Sep 6, 2017
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