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Studying Martian life in meteorites found in Antarctica

Scientists have concluded that a meteorite from Mars contains no evidence of ancient Martian life

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A 4-billion-year-old meteorite from Mars that caused a collision with Earth decades ago has no evidence of life on ancient primordial Mars, scientists reported on Thursday.

In 1996, a research team led by NASA reported that organic compounds in the rock appeared to be left over by living organisms. Other scientists are skeptical, and researchers have been breaking that premise for decades, most recently a team led by Andrew Steele of the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Steele said the small samples from the meteorite show that the carbon-rich compounds are actually the result of water – most likely salty, or milky – flowing through the rock over a long period of time. The findings appear in the journal Science.

During Mars’ wet and early past, at least two collisions occurred near the rock, heating the planet’s surrounding surface, before a third collision sent it away from the red planet and into space. millions of years ago. The 4-pound (2 kg) rock was found in Antarctica in 1984.

According to the researchers, groundwater moving through cracks in the rock, while it was on Mars, formed tiny carbon spheres. They say the same thing could happen on Earth, and could help explain the presence of methane in Mars’ atmosphere.

But the two scientists involved in the original study took issue with these latest findings, calling them “disappointing.” In a shared email, they said they remained steadfast in their 1996 observations.

Kathie Thomas-Keprta and Simon Clemett, astromaterials researchers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, write: “Although the data presented increasingly add to our knowledge of (meteorites), but this interpretation is hardly novel, nor is it supported by research.

They added: “Unsupported speculation will not solve the conundrum surrounding the origin of organic matter.”

According to Steele, advances in technology have made his team’s new findings possible.

He commended the original researchers’ measurements and noted that their life-stated hypothesis “was a plausible explanation” at the time. He said he and his team – which included NASA, German and British scientists – were careful to present their results “what they are, it’s a very interesting discovery about Mars and not a a study to disprove the “original premise.

The discovery “is huge for our understanding of how life started on this planet and helps refine the techniques we need to find life elsewhere on Mars, or Enceladus and Europa “, Steele said in an email, referring to Saturn and Jupiter’s moons with subsurface oceans.

According to Steele, the only way to prove whether Mars once had or still exists microbial life is to bring samples back to Earth for analysis. NASA’s Enduring Mars rover collected six samples to return to Earth in a decade or so; thirty samples are desired.

Millions of years after drifting in space, the meteorite landed on an Antarctic ice sheet thousands of years ago. The small blue-gray debris named – Allan Hills 84001 – from the hills where it was found.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Division receives support from the Howard Hughes Health Institute’s Science Education Department. AP is solely responsible for all content.

https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/study-nixes-mars-life-meteorite-found-antarctica-82248519 Studying Martian life in meteorites found in Antarctica

Emma Bowman

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