Nitrogen-bearing Organics in the Martian Meteorite ALH 84001

Image credit: Koike et al., 2020, Nature Communications

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory has reported the presence of many chlorine- and sulfur-bearing organic materials near Gale crater. Similarly, organic carbon-bearing compounds have been found in carbonate minerals in the martian meteorite ALH 84001, suggesting the existence of organic matter in the near-surface system on Mars. Research led by Mizuho Koike at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) now reports the detection of nitrogen-bearing organic material in carbonate minerals in the martian meteorite ALH 84001. The carbonates likely trapped the organic materials during Mars’ Noachian age and kept them intact over the last four billion years. Because carbonates are aqueously altered minerals, this may indicate a wet and organic-rich early Mars, which could have been habitable and favorable for life. The authors further state that the “presence of N-bearing compounds requires abiotic or possibly biotic N-fixation and ammonia storage, suggesting that early Mars had a less oxidizing environment than today.” READ MORE