Depleted carbon isotope compositions observed at Gale crater, Mars

1,2Christopher H. House et al. (>10)
Proceeding sof the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 119, e2115651119 Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2115651119]
1Department of Geosciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802
2Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802

Obtaining carbon isotopic information for organic carbon from Martian sediments has long been a goal of planetary science, as it has the potential to elucidate the origin of such carbon and aspects of Martian carbon cycling. Carbon isotopic values (δ13CVPDB) of the methane released during pyrolysis of 24 powder samples at Gale crater, Mars, show a high degree of variation (−137 ± 8‰ to +22 ± 10‰) when measured by the tunable laser spectrometer portion of the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite during evolved gas analysis. Included in these data are 10 measured δ13C values less than −70‰ found for six different sampling locations, all potentially associated with a possible paleosurface. There are multiple plausible explanations for the anomalously depleted 13C observed in evolved methane, but no single explanation can be accepted without further research. Three possible explanations are the photolysis of biological methane released from the subsurface, photoreduction of atmospheric CO2, and deposition of cosmic dust during passage through a galactic molecular cloud. All three of these scenarios are unconventional, unlike processes common on Earth.

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