In a new study published today in the journal Astrobiology, researchers from Imperial College London and the Natural History Museum replicated a technique that one of the Curiosity Rover’s on-board instruments is using to analyse soil samples, in its quest to find organic compounds. They tested a combination of jarosite and organic compounds. They discovered that the instrument’s technique -which uses intense bursts of heat called flash-heating – broke down jarosite into sulphur dioxide and oxygen, with the oxygen then destroying the organic compounds, leaving no trace of it behind.
WELL, HERE ARE LOTS OF ANSWERS
n 2014, Professor Mark Sephton, co-author of today’s study, investigated the mineral perchlorate. This mineral also causes problems for flash-heating experiments as it breaks down to give off oxygen and chlorine gas, which in turn react with any organic compounds, breaking them down into carbon dioxide and water. Professor Sephton showed that though perchlorate was problematic, scientists could potentially use the carbon dioxide resulting from the experiment to detect the presence of organic compounds in the sample being analysed.
On board Curiosity, the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument analyses soil samples for evidence of organic compounds by progressively heating samples up to around 1000 C, which releases gases. These gases can then be analysed by techniques called gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, which can identify molecules in the gas and see if any organic compounds are present. It is these SAM instrument experiments that the researchers behind today’s study replicated with jarosite and organic compounds.
The researchers stress that not all sulphates break down to react with organic compounds. For example, those containing calcium and magnesium would not break down until extremely high temperatures were reached during the analysis, and therefore would not affect any organic compounds present.
The team suggest that if jarosite is found in samples on Mars, then it may be possible for Curiosity’s SAM instrument to distinguish a spike in carbon dioxide level, which, as Professor Sephton has shown previously would act as an indicator that organic material is present and being broken down by the heating process.
Here we have the questions regarding why there are no carbon compounds being found on Mars even tho scientists know meteorites and comets must have impacted the surface.
On Earth, the only natural sulfur dioxide is found on the lips of volcanos and is an especially damaging DNA mutagen. Perchlorate produces oxygen when flash-heated as does jarosite. On Mars the perchlorate and jarosite are still there.
But AHA, here on Earth, not so much. Makes me wonder if our planet Earth was flash-heated and our O2 is a result of that. Remember the Great Oxygenation Event was exactly when the ice ball disappeared and life in the oceans began.
Picture our ICE BALL Earth being massively heated by Sol’s tongue of flaming cosmic radiation. Life under the ice protected and then having access to an ocean of oxygen just waiting to be utilized. Then subsequent cosmic ray blasts hitting the land exposed and clearing it of perchlorate thus adding to the O2. The sulfur jarosite mineral being degraded adding to O2, explaining why it is only found on active volcanic lips today.
But Sol may not have been the culprit overtly, perhaps its emissions heated the Earth core which transferred heat to the oceans. This internal heat could have released O2 from rocks deep in the Earth similar to jarosite. As I theorize our Sol, a dying magnetar, goes thru cycles where emissions are from the Equator, not polar. See NASA A Star With Two North Poles. In the distance past the emissions from our sun, Sol, were primarily equatorial, gradually over billions, and then millions of years, became polar. Today we barely experience the equatorial emissions as a passing phase called delayed solar magnetic reversal.
I propose that the High O2 is the result of the dissolution of perchlorate and sulfur minerals like jarosite, under the cycle of the sun where equatorial emissions are primary.
This then, is the cause of the Great Oxygenation Event.