[meteorite-list] Martian Meteorite Yields More Evidence of the Possibility of Life On Mars (Nakhla Meteorite)

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:48:18 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201409162148.s8GLmIQP017747_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Martian meteorite yields more evidence of the possibility of life on Mars
The University of Manchester
15 Sep 2014

A tiny fragment of Martian meteorite 1.3 billion years old is helping
to make the case for the possibility of life on Mars, say scientists.

The finding of a "cell-like" structure, which investigators now know once
held water, came about as a result of collaboration between scientists
in the UK and Greece. Their findings are published in the latest edition
of the journal Astrobiology.

While investigating the Martian meteorite, known as Nakhla, Dr Elias Chatzitheodoridis
of the National Technical University of Athens found an unusual feature
embedded deep within the rock. In a bid to understand what it might be,
he teamed up with long-time friend and collaborator Professor Ian Lyon
at the University of Manchester.

Professor Lyon, based in Manchester's School of Earth, Atmospheric and
Environmental Sciences, said: "In many ways it resembled a fossilised
biological cell from Earth but it was intriguing because it was undoubtedly
from Mars. Our research found that it probably wasn't a cell but that
it did once hold water - water that had been heated, probably as a result
of an asteroid impact."

These findings are significant because they add to increasing evidence
that beneath the surface, Mars does provide all the conditions for life
to have formed and evolved. It also adds to a body of evidence suggesting
that large asteroids hit Mars in the past and produce long-lasting hydrothermal
fields that could sustain life on Mars, even in later epochs, if life
ever emerged there.

As part of the research, the feature was imaged in unprecedented detail
by Dr Sarah Haigh of The University of Manchester whose work usually involves
high resolution imaging for next generation electronic devices ,which
are made by stacking together single atomic layers of graphene and other
materials with the aim of making faster, lighter and bendable mobile phones
and tablets. A similar imaging approach was able to reveal the atomic
layers of materials inside the meteorite.

Together their combined experimental approach has revealed new insights
into the geological origins of this fascinating structure.

Professor Lyon said: "We have been able to show the setting is there to
provide life. It's not too cold, it's not too harsh. Life as we know
it, in the form of bacteria, for example, could be there, although we
haven't found it yet. It's about piecing together the case for life
on Mars - it may have existed and in some form could exist still."

Now the team is using these and other state-of-the-art techniques to investigate
new secondary materials in this meteorite and search for possible bio
signatures which provide scientific evidence of life, past or present.
 Professor Lyon concluded: "Before we return samples from Mars, we must
examine them further, but in more delicate ways. We must carefully search
for further evidence."

Notes for editors

The scientists' findings A Conspicuous Clay Ovoid in Nakhla: Evidence
for Subsurface Hydrothermal Alteration on Mars with Implications for Astrobiology
Elias Chatzitheodoridis, Sarah Haigh, and Ian Lyon are published in Astrobiology,
Vol. 14, No. 8

The work was supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Media enquiries to:

Katie Brewin/Aeron Haworth
Media Relations Officer
The University of Manchester

Tel: 0161 275 8387
Email: aeron.haworth at manchester.ac.uk
Received on Tue 16 Sep 2014 05:48:18 PM PDT

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