THE meteorite EETA 79001, which many believe to have originated on Mars, contains carbonate minerals thought to be martian weathering or alteration products. Accompanying the carbonates are unexpectedly high concentrations of organic materials (defined here as carbonaceous matter that has a low stability towards oxidation, and so combusts at < 600°C; the term 'organic' does not necessarily imply an origin by biogenic processes). Although the carbon isotope composition of these materials is indistinguishable from terrestrial biogenic components, and so cannot be used to assess the source, we argue here that their occurrence in an interior sample of a clean Antarctic meteorite militates against a wholly terrestrial origin. A sample of martian organic materials may thus be available for further study in the laboratory.
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