What has Curiosity Found on Mars?
The Net has been buzzing with speculation that the Mars rover Curiosity has found something important on the surface of Mars.
The Curiosity rover may have found organic compounds on Mars, Jet Propulsion Laboratory director Charles Elachi told conference attendees in Rome on Wednesday, according to multiple reports.
"Perhaps Curiosity has found simple organic molecules," Elachi said at La Sapienza University, according to La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno. "It’s preliminary data that must be checked (on) organic, not biological, molecules."
The statement figures to set off a new round of speculation and excitement about the possibility of life on Mars, although JPL representatives maintain that no major announcements are forthcoming.
Earlier this month, Curiosity project scientist John Grotzinger told NPR that recent data would be "one for the history books."
"One for the history books." Well, we can rule out organic compounds because JPL announced today that that isn't what Curiosity has found.
I'm not sure that finding organic compounds fits the "history books" bill, though it would be an interesting find. We haven't found them on Mars yet and my knowledge of this area of astronomy is a bit rusty, but organics were found in comets years ago. It would not be much of a shock to find simple organic compounds on or or near the surface of Mars. Unless the organics had some trace of biological origin. Then, it would be a whole new ballgame. Or we might be back to an old ballgame. But it would be interesting. Supposedly we'll find out what Curiosity has found on Monday at the American Geophysical Union's meeting in San Francisco. My hat is off to the public outreach folks at JPL, who have done a great job ramping up curiosity about Curiosity.
By the way, if you happened to look up in the night sky near the Moon last night, you saw a very bright object glowing just above it. That wasn't Mars, but it was Jupiter. The giant and Venus are both easily visible this month, and Jupiter and the Moon happened to be bright and in the same vicinity last night.