Clues to Martian Life? Organic Material Discovered in a Martian Meteorite

LIfe on Mars

Thin section of ALH-77005 in plane-polarized light. The studied area by FTIR spectroscopy is marked by rectangle, where the strong putative microbially mediated alteration was observed. Credit: doi:10.1515/astro-2019-0002

According to NASA, scientists are in agreement that there is no life on Mars. However, they continue to assess whether Mars ever had an environment capable of supporting microbial life. Now, researchers from Hungary have discovered embedded organic material in a Martian meteorite found in the late 1970s. The scientists were able to determine the presence of organic matter in a mineralized form such as different forms of bacteria within the meteorite, suggesting that life could have existed on the Red Planet.

Officially named ALH-77005, the Martian meteorite was found in the Allan Hills in Antarctica during the mission of the Japanese National Institute of Polar Research between 1977 and 1978. The new study “Mineralized biosignatures in ALH-77005 Shergottite – Clues to Martian Life?” was published in De Gruyter’s journal Open Astronomy, by authors Ildiko Gyollai, Márta Polgári, and Szaniszló Bérczi proposes the presence of active bacteria on Mars. Their research also suggests that there may have been life on other planets.

“Our work is important to a broad audience because it integrates planetary, earth, biological, chemical, and environmental sciences and will be of interest to many researchers in those fields,” explains lead author Ildiko Gyollai from HAS Research Center for Astronomy and Earth Sciences in Budapest. “The research will also be of interest to planetologists, experts of meteorite and astrobiology as well as researchers of the origin of life, and to the general public since it offers an example of a novel aspect of microbial mediation in stone meteorites,” Gyollai concludes.

This new research could change the examination of meteorites in the future. In light of their discovery, the authors posit that solar system materials should be studied to establish whether there is evidence of microbial forms within space rocks – and an indication that there was once life on Mars.

Reference: “Mineralized biosignatures in ALH-77005 Shergottite – Clues to Martian Life?” by Ildikó Gyollai , Márta Polgári , Szaniszló Bérczi , Arnold Gucsik and Elemér Pál-Molnár, 3 April 2019, Open Astronomy.
DOI: 10.1515/astro-2019-0002

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