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Mars meteorite may contain evidence of life

Posted on Saturday, 1 March, 2014 | Comment icon 31 comments

Do meteorites hold the key to discovering life on Mars ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
An intriguing meteorite believed to be from Mars is thought to contain signs of extraterrestrial life.
The possibility that we might be able to detect evidence of alien life in meteorites that have come from Mars has been of great interest to scientists for decades. 18 years ago the infamous ALH 84001 meteorite seemed to contain tiny 'fossils' but these were ultimately dismissed as geological in origin.

Now scientists examining a different meteorite, Yamato 000593, claim that they've found unusual carbon-rich spherules and microscopic tunnels within the rock that could be indicative of biological processes.

"We cannot exclude the possibility that the carbon-rich regions in both sets of features may be the product of abiotic mechanisms," the team wrote. "However, textural and compositional similarities to features in terrestrial samples, which have been interpreted as biogenic, imply the intriguing possibility that the Martian features were formed by biotic activity."

Not everyone is convinced by the findings however.

"I don't think the science community will find 'textural and compositional similarities' compelling enough to be proof of a biological origin," said NASA's Chris McKay.

Source: Live Science | Comments (31)

Tags: Mars, Meteorite

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #22 Posted by bison on 28 February, 2014, 19:14
Since one can not disprove a negative, it's not possible to definitely state that the minute tunnels in the meteorite were not formed by escaping gas. The test of a scientific hypothesis is its probability, as against other possibilities. Is it more probable that the tunnels were produced by a known process of bacterial erosion, or by a form of gas diffusion for which we have no evidence?
Comment icon #23 Posted by scowl on 1 March, 2014, 19:10
Yes. However since we have found absolutely no other evidence of life on Mars and we know virtually nothing about the geology of Mars, I would bet my life savings that we are looking at some type of geological process or some other process that we don't know about. These rocks are four billion years old, were impacted by a meteorite, spent an unknown amount of time in space and an unknown amount of time on Earth before they were discovered. The tunneling has been seen in two meteorites, one that suggests that it could have been a biological process and another that doesn't suggest it ... [More]
Comment icon #24 Posted by bison on 1 March, 2014, 19:29
If it were merely a matter of the shape of the structures (morphology) the case would be considerably weaker. We also have the carbon, not from carbonates, enrichment of those specific structures, relative to the rest of the meteorite, suggesting that they were once alive, or in contact with living things. We also have the presence of similar tunnels in another Mars meteorite and their absence from a control meteorite found in Antarctica, and not originating on Mars.
Comment icon #25 Posted by Whatsinausername on 1 March, 2014, 19:33
The title should read "It's highly unlikely a Mars meteorite may contain evidence of life"
Comment icon #26 Posted by scowl on 1 March, 2014, 20:34
I wouldn't bet that life put the carbon there, not in a four billion year old rock from a planet we don't know much about which traveled across the solar system and spent an unknown amount of time on Earth. There could be other processes responsible. I haven't seen anything that says the carbon could have only been the result of biological enrichment. But if it would help fund further exploration of Mars then I would say yes, there is absolutely no doubt that life alone is the only explanation for that carbon!
Comment icon #27 Posted by DONTEATUS on 1 March, 2014, 21:07
Lets Keep Looking !
Comment icon #28 Posted by susieice on 2 March, 2014, 0:54
Still reminds me of Deception Point.
Comment icon #29 Posted by Sundew on 3 March, 2014, 2:04
If one assumes that the building blocks of life (i.e. the chemical elements and their various compounds) are common outside of the earth, that still does not prove they are or were part of a living organism. Carbon, Iron, Sulphur, Calcium and other elements and their compounds could be found as the result of chemical and/or geological processes. This is not to say that life cannot exist outside of the Earth; neither science, nor even religion for that matter, preclude the existence of life outside our planet, however finding some of the elements common to life does not necessarily mean they... [More]
Comment icon #30 Posted by qxcontinuum on 20 August, 2014, 4:41
Good to see at least that someone from Nasa is optimistic about existence of past life on Mars. Even as only hypothetical rarely this is emerging from Nasa arm chair explorers.
Comment icon #31 Posted by psyche101 on 20 August, 2014, 5:53
Getting of Mars would not be as hard as getting of Earth, it is about one sixth the size of earth and one third the gravity.

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