First Detections of Dichlorobenzene Isomers and Trichloromethylpropane from Organic Matter Indigenous to Mars Mudstone in Gale Crater, Mars: Results from the Sample Analysis at Mars Instrument Onboard the Curiosity Rover

Abstract : Chromatographic analysis of the Cumberland mudstone in Gale crater by the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument revealed the detection of two to three isomers of dichlorobenzene. Their individual concentrations were estimated to be in the 0.5–17 ppbw range relatively to the sample mass. We also report the first detection of trichloromethylpropane, and the confirmation of the detection of chlorobenzene previously reported. Supporting laboratory experiments excluded the SAM internal background as the source of those compounds, thus confirming the organic carbon and chlorine of the newly detected chlorohydrocarbons are indigenous to the mudstone sample. Laboratory experiments also demonstrated that the chlorohydrocarbons were mainly produced from chemical reactions occurring in the SAM ovens between organic molecules and oxychlorines contained in the sample. The results we obtained show that meteoritic organics and tested chemical species (a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, an amino acid, and a carboxylic acid) were plausible organic precursors of the chlorinated aromatic molecules detected with SAM, thus suggesting that they could be among the organic molecules present in the mudstone. Results from this study coupled with previously reported detections of chlorinated aromatics (<300 ppbw) indigenous to the same mudstone highlight that organic can be preserved from the harsh surface conditions even at shallow depth. The detection of new chlorohydrocarbons with SAM confirms that organic molecules should have been available in an environment favorable to life forms, strengthening the inhabitability aspect of Gale crater.
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Submitted on : Thursday, January 2, 2020 - 10:36:42 AM
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Cyril Szopa, Caroline Freissinet, Daniel P. Glavin, Maeva Millan, Arnaud Buch, et al.. First Detections of Dichlorobenzene Isomers and Trichloromethylpropane from Organic Matter Indigenous to Mars Mudstone in Gale Crater, Mars: Results from the Sample Analysis at Mars Instrument Onboard the Curiosity Rover. Astrobiology, Mary Ann Liebert, 2020, (in press). ⟨10.1089/ast.2018.1908⟩. ⟨insu-02426316⟩

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