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Monday, April 6, 2015

Similarity Of Martian Structures To Terrestrial Structures Could Uncover Evidence Of ET Life

NASA’s Curiosity rover captures photographs of rocks which may confirm that life once existed on the Red Planet.

Photographed at the Gillespie Lake outcrop in Yellowknife Bay, the photos show formations of what appear to be Martian rocks. According to Dr Nora Noffke, who spent two decades studying fossils of early microbes, the formations found in a former vast lake of Mars when it had surface water appear very similar to rock formations on Earth created by microorganisms.

Noffke told Astrobiology Magazine that she saw something very familiar in one image, so she took a closer look at it. She spent a couple of weeks investigating the image centimetre by centimetre, making sketches, and comparing images from Earth’s structures.

Published in PDF in the journal Astrobiology, her research examines structures of rocks on Mars and compare them to the remains of terrestrial microbial organisms, which used to be the most advanced life forms on planet Earth. Interestingly, after comparing, they match up.

With the evolution of life on Earth, moisture spread out the layers of organic matter, leaving behind microbial-induced patterns in rocks. She says that it’s a possibility that the Mars’ structures could have developed by natural erosion.

Noffke notes however that if structures on Mars are not of biological origin, then similarities on Earth would be beyond ordinary coincidence.

The tremendous number of images put online by NASA has sparked hundreds if not thousands of claims on what the rover has photographed while on Mars. Some believe that the rover found fast-growing fungus and leg bones on the Martian surface. However, the paper of Dr Noffke doesn’t claim to have found the answer to the question by David Bowie.

NASA’s planetary scientist Chris McKay says he has seen many papers only compare pile of Martian dirt with a pile of dirt on Earth. And because they look similar, these papers made an argument that the same mechanism must have developed each pile on Mars and Earth, explains McKay. He adds that argument like this is easy to make and not very convincing. However, McKay notes that Noffke’s paper presents details from careful analysis.

In order to test Noffke’s hypothesis, getting samples of rock from the Red Planet could be an ideal solution. But the current technology would not make it possible, and while NASA has plans for a sample return mission, it may not even take place in the near future.

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