Mars is the closest compelling candidate for life beyond Earth.
For ~1.5 billion years, the planet seemed Earth-like.
With plentiful surface liquid water having flowed, Mars may have developed life.
But finding “organics” in Martian soil isn’t even a useful clue.
Yes, the Perseverance rover found them, as did Curiosity previously.
However, “organic molecules” simply mean “molecules containing carbon plus hydrogen.”
Most organic molecules are prebiotic: formed through inorganic chemical processes.
Presently, 256 unique organic species are known within interstellar dust clouds.
Alcohols, acids, aldehydes, amines, and hydrocarbons all number among these compounds.
So do various cyanides and ethyl formate: found copiously in the galactic center.
Wherever new stars form, additional variants of organic molecules abiotically emerge.
Complex carbon-ringed molecules — polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons — form ubiquitously.
Protoplanetary disks around newborn stars contain formaldehyde and methanol.
As stellar systems evolve, dense bodies form, concentrating simple molecules and enabling synthesizing reactions.
Leftover protoplanetary material persists as asteroids and Kuiper belt objects.
The organics inside them are staggering.
They include fullerenes, alkanes, and over 70 types of amino acids.
It would’ve been shocking if such compounds were absent on Mars.
Sample return missions could reveal Martian life.
These discovered “organics,” however, provide insufficient evidence.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.