New evidence for life on Mars

Scientists have discovered exciting new evidence that life could have developed on Mars. Interestingly, it comes from fresh analysis of the same meteorite in which Nasa once said they had found fossils of alien microbes.

Those “Martians” were later found to be due to contamination caused after it landed in the Antarctic. But experts now say it shows that the building blocks of life formed on Mars early in the planet’s history.

Furthermore, they say it suggests life can form on any cold, rocky world in the universe.

A team from the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory in Washington has made a detailed analysis of organic material and minerals in the meteorite, called Allan Hills 84001.

They compared the results with data from similar rocks found in Svalbard, Norway which were created in volcanoes that erupted a million years ago.

Team leader Andrew Steele said last night: “Organic material occurs within tiny spheres of carbonate minerals in both the Martian and Earth rocks.

“We found that the organic material is closely associated with the iron oxide mineral magnetite, which is the key to understanding how these compounds formed.”

Colleague Hans Amundsen said: “The results of this study show that volcanic activity in a freezing climate can produce organic compounds. This implies that building blocks of life can form on cold rocky planets throughout the universe.”

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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