View Full Version : Boron found on Mars

2017-Sep-05, 07:42 PM
From R&D magazine (https://www.rdmag.com/article/2017/09/boron-gives-new-hope-habitability-mars?et_cid=6084774&et_rid=54636800&type=headline&et_cid=6084774&et_rid=54636800&linkid=content)

RNA is a nucleic acid present in all modern life, but scientists have long hypothesized an "RNA World," where the first proto-life was made of individual RNA strands that both contained genetic information and could copy itself. A key ingredient of RNA is ribose—a sugar that is unstable and decompose quickly in water. To stabilize the ribose another element such as boron is needed. Boron converts to borate when it is dissolved in water. Borate will react with the ribose and stabilize it for long enough to make RNA.

“Finding boron on Mars further opens the possibility that life could have once arisen on the planet,” Gasda said. “Borates are one possible bridge from simple organic molecules to RNA.


The researchers discovered the boron using the rover’s laser-shooting Chem Cam instrument in calcium sulfate mineral veins, indicating the boron was present in Mars groundwater.

This was actually first reported December 2016, but the paper was just published in Geophysical Research Letters (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2017GL074480/abstract;jsessionid=DDC85283DDE9D31CFA6E347E561B3C 25.f03t04).

We report the first in situ detection of boron on Mars. Boron has been detected in Gale crater at levels <0.05 wt % B by the NASA Curiosity rover ChemCam instrument in calcium-sulfate-filled fractures, which formed in a late-stage groundwater circulating mainly in phyllosilicate-rich bedrock interpreted as lacustrine in origin. We consider two main groundwater-driven hypotheses to explain the presence of boron in the veins: leaching of borates out of bedrock or the redistribution of borate by dissolution of borate-bearing evaporite deposits. Our results suggest that an evaporation mechanism is most likely, implying that Gale groundwaters were mildly alkaline. On Earth, boron may be a necessary component for the origin of life; on Mars, its presence suggests that subsurface groundwater conditions could have supported prebiotic chemical reactions if organics were also present and provides additional support for the past habitability of Gale crater.

2017-Sep-05, 07:44 PM

Tom Mazanec
2017-Sep-06, 11:35 PM
I read somewhere that RNA is easier to make on Mars than Earth, is this why?
Also, I read an astrobiology book that said that Bayesian math shows that, if an outcome is dependent on several extremely unlikely events, but the outcome is "forced" to happen, then the events will occur at equal intervals of the period in which the outcome is possible.
The book commented that the origin of life seemed to begin on Earth earlier than that implies, and that Mars, which got its solid surface earlier than would the larger Earth (and which would more easily be able to have lithopanspermia than Earth, with its lower escape velocity and orbital speed) would be the place life would have begun.