- The scientists examined data from three samples processed by the Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument, which is part of a formidable laboratory in Curiosity’s belly. They looked at samples pulled from three spots near its landing site: aeolian deposits from Rocknest and mudstone deposits from John Klein and Cumberland.
- A fresh analysis of the nitrogen compounds in these rocks further strengthens that idea. The rock samples were cooked in SAM’s oven and the resulting gases were analyzed. The researchers found a significant amount of nitric oxide, a compound that, before it was cooked, probably came from nitrates.
- Most nitrates on Earth are produced by living things, Stern said. But in the case of Mars, the team believes the nitrates were created during a “thermal shock,” such as a lightning strike or an asteroid impact. Among the next steps, she says, is to see whether whatever process that generated these nitrates is still happening on Mars.
NASA’s Curiosity rover finds fresh signs of ingredients for life on Mars
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