Saturday, May 26, 2012

Let's All Move to Mars!

A likely sight on Mars in the near future
This just in:
New evidence from meteorites suggests that the basic building blocks of life are present on Mars. The study found that carbon present in 10 meteorites, spanning more than four billion years of Martian history, came from the planet and was not the result of contamination on Earth.
A team of scientists based at the Carnegie Institution for Science, based in Washington DC, found "reduced carbon" in the meteorites and says it was created by volcanic activity on Mars.
"This research shows, yes - it does exist on Mars and now we are moving to the next set of questions. What happened to it, what was its fate, did it take the next step of creating life on Mars?"
But before you get your Xenobiologist certification and $1000 camera, you should know this doesn't mean we're going to find any little green men/women:
In a separate but related paper, Steele also reports on the Allan Hills meteorite, which was once thought to contain fossil evidence of Martian microbial life. The meteorite, named for the site where it was found in Antarctica, is thought to be 4.1 billion years old. Back in 1996, a team of scientists at NASA and other institutions claimed it contained evidence of ancient microbial life, because it contains a unique pattern of organic carbon compounds. But Steele’s studies say that this, too, is not biologically based — rather, the chemical reactions involve the graphite form of carbon. That paper appears in American Mineralogist. 
While it may seem disappointing to confirm that Mars is a native organic chemistry lab, this is useful information for future Martian life hunters. Scientists will be able to use these studies to compare and contrast carbon-bearing formations and determine whether they’re of abiotic or biological origin. The meteorite paper appears today in Science Express. 
Sorry...I know, the picture lied...

[If you have academic access, you can read the full article in Science here.]