Curiosity, the robotic vehicle sent to roam Mars nearly six years ago, has made some "breakthrough" discoveries about the planet.
New research published in the journal Science analyzes the NASA rover's latest findings — some scientists think that the discoveries could point toward existing microbial life on Mars.
The rover took a look at some ancient sediments from Mars' surface, and detected a variety of organic molecules. This backs up some of Curiosity's previous findings, that provided evidence for liquid water and microbial life long ago. It also found that methane levels in the Red Planet's atmosphere shift drastically each year, reports NBC News. That's important because the changing levels of methane could be causing chemical reactions that could support biological activity.
"The discovery that methane gas is being released on a seasonal basis from the Martian subsurface means that there are active processes happening in the Martian subsurface today, which could include heated reactions between water and rocks, possible biological activity, or some other mechanism," Kirsten Siebach, a planetary geologist at Rice University in Houston, told NBC News. "[The ongoing reactions] could potentially be related to liquid water or life."
The two discoveries are being hailed as "breakthroughs in astrobiology," said astrobiologist Inge Loes ten Kate. Read more at NBC News.