Mars meteorite hints at life on the red planet

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Jun 30, 2014, 5:27 PM EDT

David Bowie isn’t the only person wondering if there was ever life on Mars. It’s a question astronomers, along with the general public, have asked for decades. And although it’s unlikely we’ll have a definitive answer soon, all signs point to yes. With each passing year and every Mars mission, we find more evidence that life might have existed on the red planet, including a 30-pound meteorite discovered by scientists in Antarctica 14 years ago. After studying this meteorite, called Yamato 000593, scientists determined that it not only came from Mars, but that it also shows evidence of once containing microbial life.

After carefully studying Yamato 000593, these team of scientists concluded that the martian meteorite is over 1 billion years old and probably landed on Earth after some sort of huge impact hit Mars about 10,000 years ago. But most importantly, the meteorite has small tunnels running through it and contains materials rich with carbon, one of the key components of life as we know it. This suggests that microbial life might have once existed within the rock. This is not definitive proof of life on Mars, but these conclusions are consistent with similar rocks here on Earth.

This isn’t the first time we’ve made such a discovery. Back in 1996, there was another martian meteorite discovered, ALH84001. This meteorite contained similar features to Yamato 000593, suggesting life once existed within it, but many scientists remained skeptical. In fact, most scientists were so unimpressed that the research never really took off. Perhaps that’s the reason that some of the researchers from that team are now working on studying Yamato 000593.

One of the team’s challenges lie with proving that the features on the rock happened on Mars and not on Earth, where it sat for at least 10,000 years. And although these scientists are certain, after studying the rock, that this is actually the case, some folks in the scientific community are still not convinced. It looks like we really won’t prove that life existed on Mars until we can gather rocks from its surface and bring them back to Earth for study. That, unfortunately, won’t happen for many years, at least until after NASA’s Mars 2020 mission takes place, which will gather up caches of rocks and other materials from Mars. As of yet, though, there’s still no plan on how these materials will be returned to Earth.

Via NBC News