A fragment of a 1.3 billion year-old Martian meteorite is creating some buzz in the scientific community. No, it’s not quite a UFO touching down and aliens strolling out, but it’s a start. A new study in the journal Astrobiology shows off the finding of a cell-like structure embedded in the meteorite fragment.

The find by UK and Greek scientists also showed the structure once held water, a key building block of life. Researching the meteorite, known as Nakhla, Dr. Chatzitheodoridis discovered the unusual feature embedded in the rock. Teaming up with UK researchers, they were able to uncover the structure.

What does this mean? It bolsters the theory that beneath the surface of Mars, the building blocks of life once existed. It is possible that Mars life formed and evolved over time. Looks like the Curiosity rover has a mission now.

Professor Ian Lyon at the University of Manchester assisted in the research. “In many ways it resembled a fossilized biological cell from Earth but it was intriguing because it was undoubtedly from Mars. Our research found that it probably wasn’t a cell but that it did once hold water – water that had been heated, probably as a result of an asteroid impact.”

The find furthers the evidence that Mars was a shooting gallery of meteor and asteroid impacts that could have created the conditions for life to thrive during certain time periods.

Researchers now know the clues to look for, so expect the Martian meteorite to undergo a battery of imaging scans. You just thought you were glowing after some x-rays. This cell-structure find could be the key to unlocking the mystery surrounding extraterrestrial life.

Professor Lyon expanded further on the find. “We have been able to show the setting is there to provide life. It’s not too cold, it’s not too harsh. Life as we know it, in the form of bacteria, for example, could be there, although we haven’t found it yet. It’s about piecing together the case for life on Mars – it may have existed and in some form could exist still.”

If that’s the case, we could be a rover mission or two away from possibly finding bacterial life on Mars. That would surely change the conversation surrounding NASA, and practically beg for a manned mission.

Read the full study here. A primer on the Martian meteorite Nakhla can be found here.

IMG Credit: NASA


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