Traces of Martian life have been found in a London meteorite, say a Nasa team of scientists.
They opened a space rock from the Natural History Museum and found clear signs that it contained microbes.
The scientists, who include Beagle 2 mastermind Professor Colin Pillinger, believe the evidence is not due to contamination on Earth.
If they are correct, it means they have startling proof that there is or was once life on Mars.
The meteorite is one that fell from the sky in Nakhla, Egypt, in 1911.
It broke into many fragment and several ended up at the Natural History Museum at South Kensington, London. One is shown in the image above. (© Natural History Museum.)
Tests on the composition of the meteorite, including air trapped inside, showed that it was blasted out of Mars by an asteroid impact and spent millions of years drifting through the solar system before falling to earth.
The Nasa findings are to be presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference at Houston, Texas, next month.
The museum gave scientists permission to open a piece of the Nakhla meteorite.
They examined thin sections and found tiny cracks were filled with a carbon-rich susbtance resembling veins etched by microbes in volcanic glass at the bottom of the sea.
Carbon is a building block of life. The scientists’ paper says their evidence “strongly supports an interpretation that this carbon is indigenous to Mars and is very unlikely to be a terrestrial contaminant.”
Nasa provoked a storm in 1998 when they claimed they had found fossils of microbes in another meteorite from Mars called ALH84001.
© Paul Sutherland. Unauthorised reproduction forbidden.