Discovery of boron on Mars adds to evidence for habitability

MSL-Curiosity-Murray-Buttes-selfie-pia20844-br2Boron compounds play role in stabilizing sugars needed to make RNA, a key to life. The discovery of boron on Mars gives scientists more clues about whether life could have ever existed on the planet, according to a paper published [September 5] in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“Because borates may play an important role in making RNA — one of the building blocks of life — finding boron on Mars further opens the possibility that life could have once arisen on the planet,” said Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author on the paper. “Borates are one possible bridge from simple organic molecules to RNA. Without RNA, you have no life. The presence of boron tells us that, if organics were present on Mars, these chemical reactions could have occurred.” (…)

The boron found on Mars was discovered in calcium sulfate mineral veins, meaning the boron was present in Mars groundwater, and provides another indication that some of the groundwater in Gale Cater was habitable, ranging between 0-60 degrees Celsius (32-140 degrees Fahrenheit) and with neutral-to-alkaline pH. [More at links]

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