Mars 'cauliflower' may hint at microbial life
February 2, 2016 | 38 comments
Could these formations have been created by alien life forms ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Mysterious silica formations photographed in a Martian crater could represent evidence of alien life.
The cauliflower-like shapes, which are known as micro-digitate silica protrusions, were first discovered back in 2008 by NASA's Spirit rover during its exploration of Mars' Gusev crater.
Nobody knew how they had formed at the time, but now following new research conducted in the Chilean Desert, Steven Ruff and Jack Farmer of Arizona State University have put forward the possibility that the silica formations were actually created by microbes.
The idea is based on studies of similar patterns formed by microbial life on Earth - in particular in Chile's Atacama desert where the conditions are very similar to those on mars.
The same type of formations have also been observed at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
If it turns out that the patterns on Mars really were created by microbes then it means that these strange formations could be the first ever direct evidence of extraterrestrial life.
Ruling out geological interpretations however is going to be difficult.
"Only when something that we have identified as a potential biosignature is proven to have been produced only by life, and not by any abiotic means, can we make the claim that definitive evidence for life has been found," said Sherry Cady of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.
Sadly it seems unlikely that a definitive answer is going to be found anytime soon.
Source: Smithsonian Magazine
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