Friday, May 27

Meteorite from Mars found in Antarctica has no traces of extraterrestrial life

The rock contains no evidence of ancient or primitive life.

Photo: Peter Döpper / Pexels

In 1984, an expedition group found a meteorite in Antarctica that would be about 4,000 years old, coming from Mars and 12 years later, a NASA-led team announced that organic compounds found in the rock appeared to have been left behind by living creatures, causing quite a stir.

However, new research claims that Allan Hills 84001 (ALH84001), as this 2-kilogram Martian rock was named, contains no evidence of ancient or primitive life, according to details a study published by the journal Science.

To reach this conclusion, specialists led by Andrew Steele of the Carnegie Institution for Science analyzed and dismantled that premise over the decades.

the meteorite Allan Hills it was just water

Tiny samples from the meteorite show that the carbon-rich compounds found in the meteorite are actually the result of water (probably salty or brackish) flowing over the rock over a prolonged period, Steele said.

During Mars’s wet and early past, at least two impacts occurred near the rock., which heated the planet’s surrounding surface, before a third impact blasted it off the Red Planet into space millions of years ago, only to fall back to Earth.

A third impact ejected it out of Mars. (Photo: Kindel Media/ Pexels)

According to the researchers, groundwater moving through cracks in the rock, when it was still on Mars, formed the tiny carbon globules that are present. The same can happen on Earth and could help explain the presence of methane in the Martian atmosphere, the experts said.

A divisive investigation

Technological advances have made his team’s new findings possible, according to Steele, who praised the measurements made by the original 1996 researchers, noting that their hypothesis about life “was a reasonable interpretation” at the time.

Likewise, the expert added that his team, which includes NASA, German and British scientists, was in charge of presenting the results “as they are, that is, a very interesting discovery about Mars and not a study to refute” the original premise.

According to Steele, the only way to prove whether Mars has had or still has microbial life is to bring samples back to Earth for analysis. NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has already collected six samples to return to Earth within a decade or so; it is desired to obtain three dozen samples.

Defenses of the 1996 theory

Not everyone agrees with Steele’s investigation. Two of the scientists involved in the original study disagreed with these latest findings, calling them “disappointing” and saying they stand by their 1996 observations.

“Although the data presented adds to our knowledge (of the meteorite), the interpretation is neither novel nor supported by research,” said Kathie Thomas-Keprta and Simon Clemett, researchers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“Unsubstantiated speculation does not contribute to solving the enigma surrounding the origin of organic matter” in the meteorite, they added.

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