Is there life on Mars?
Was there life on Mars?
Mars and the presence or absence of life has been a matter of great debate for quite some time now. It’s hard to keep up with the debate. One thing is certain, however, and that is that the Martian meteorite known as Yamato 000593 may very well contain proof that there once was life on Mars. Research team leaders David McKay, Everett Gibson and Kathie Thomas-Keprta, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and Lauren White of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Houston, have completed a new study that has added new fuel to the fiery debate of the presence of life on Mars.
This project focused on features within the meteorite. The newly found compositional features and structures within the Yamato suggest the potential past presence of biological processes that could go back hundreds of millions of years. The rock, discovered on the Yamato Glacier in Antarctica in 2000, was formed approximately 1.3 billion years ago from a Martian lava flow according to recent analysis.
The same lava flow ejected the meteor into space. It moved through space until it fell to earth approximately 50,000 years ago. Classified into a subgroup of meteorites called nakhlites, it is differentiated from that of Earth and the moon by the make-up of oxygen atoms within the minerals as well as trapped Martian gases.
More importantly, the researchers have discovered features that suggest both the movement of water as well as biotic activity in the Mars meteorite. It is reportedly “pervaded by tunnel and micro-tunnel structures” that reveal undulating, curved shapes that are said to be accordant “with bio-alteration textures in terrestrial basaltic glasses” created by cooled lava interacting with bacteria.
White states: “These samples offer clues to the past habitability of (Mars). As more Martian meteorites are discovered, continued research focusing on these samples collectively will offer deeper insight into attributes which are indigenous to ancient Mars. Furthermore, as these meteorite studies are compared to present day robotic observations on Mars, the mysteries of the planet’s seemingly wetter past will be revealed.”
As the debate over life on Mars continues so too does the research. The NASA scientists are currently working to determine if the carbon-rich spherules inside the Yamato meteorite are indigenous or were caused by contamination on Earth. Stay tuned . . .
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)