July 30, 2010
Mars Site Could Contain Proof Of Life
Scientists believe that they have found rocks containing the fossilized remains of early life on Mars, according to a new article published in the latest edition of Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
According to the report, a team of scientists--led by Dr. Adrian J. Brown of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in California--discovered the rocks in the Nili Fossae region of the "Red Planet." Their research on the hydrothermal formation of clay-carbonate rocks in said area apparently provides evidence that living organisms could have called Mars home about 4 billion years ago.
The study "suggests that carbonate bearing rocks found in the Nili Fossae region of Mars are made up of hydrothermally altered ultramafic (perhaps komatiitic) rocks," claims a press release, dated July 29, that details the findings.
Furthermore, the media statement claims that the research "also shows that the carbonates at Nili Fossae are not pure Mg-carbonate. Moreover, the study explains that talc is present in close proximity to the carbonate locations--rather than previously suggested saponite--and talc-carbonate alteration of high-Mg precursor rocks has taken place."
According to BBC News Science Reporter Victoria Gill, the mineral content of the rocks in the Nili Fossae region is very similar to those found in a northwestern Australian location known as the Pilbara, "where some of the earliest evidence of life on Earth has been buried and preserved in mineral form."
That means that it is at least somewhat likely that the Martian location could be home to similar evidence, according to what Brown told Gill.
"If there was enough life to make layers, to make corals or some sort of microbial homes, and if it was buried on Mars, the same physics that took place on Earth could have happened there," he said.
Joining Brown on the research team were experts from California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the Desert Research Institute in Nevada, and Universidade Estadual de Campinas in Brazil. Their findings were published in the paper entitled "Hydrothermal formation of Clay-Carbonate alteration assemblages in the Nili Fossae region of Mars."
Image Caption: Nili Fossae Phyllosilicate Crater Ejecta. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
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