Infamous Mars meteorite contains organic molecules, but they aren’t proof of life

Organic molecules found in a Mars meteorite that crash-landed on Earth are not signs of life, but instead formed in chemical reactions between water and rock on the Red Planet about 4 billion years ago, a new study finds. These findings could shed light on the origins of the building blocks of life on early Earth, researchers add.

Organic molecules generally include any compound with carbon, and they may possess oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur and other elements as well. Organic compounds are often associated with life, but they can arise due to “abiotic” or non-biological activity as well. Previous research detected numerous organic chemicals in Red Planet rocks, as well as the organic gas methane in Mars’ atmosphere. However, the origins of these compounds has proven controversial.