Friday, January 21, 2022

Study nixes Mars life in meteorite found in Antarctica

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Scientists said Thursday that CANAVERAL, FLA. – There is no evidence of ancient, primitive Martian life in a 4 billion-year-old meteorite from Mars that caused the Earth to shake several decades ago.

In 1996, a NASA-led team announced that organic compounds in the rock appeared to have been left behind by living things. Other scientists have been skeptical, and researchers have questioned this basis for decades, most recently a team led by Andrew Steele of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Small samples from the meteorite show that the carbon-rich compounds are actually the result of water – salt or brackish water – flowing over a long period of time on the rock, Steele said. The findings were published in the journal Science.

In the wet and early past of Mars, at least two impacts occurred near the rock, warming the planet’s surrounding surface, and a third impact took it out of the red planet and into space millions of years ago. The 4-pound rock was found in 1984 in Antarctica.

A meteorite named ALH84001 is in the hands of a scientist at the Johnson Space Center Laboratory in Houston, August 7, 1996.

According to the researchers, the groundwater moved through cracks in the rock when it was on Mars, forming tiny carbon globes that were present. The same thing could happen on Earth and help explain the presence of methane in the Martian atmosphere, they said.

But two scientists who participated in the initial study objected to these latest findings, calling them “disappointing.” In a joint email, they said they would stick to their 1996 observations.

“While the data presented will gradually increase our knowledge of (the meteorite), the interpretation is almost new and not supported by research,” wrote Kathy Thomas-Keprta and Simon Clemett, astronomers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. researchers.

“Unsupported rumors are of no help in solving the puzzle over the origin of organic matter in the meteorite,” they added.

Discovered in 1984, the Allan Hills Mars 84001 was unveiled at a NASA press conference on August 7, 1996 in Washington.
Discovered in 1984, the Allan Hills 84001 Mars Koki was unveiled at a NASA press conference on August 7, 1996 in Washington.

According to Style, advances in technology have enabled his team to realize new discoveries.

He praised the original researchers ’measurements, noting that their life-assuming hypotheses were“ reasonable interpretations ”at the time. He said he and his team, including NASA, German and British scientists – cared to present their findings because they were a very exciting discovery about Mars and not research to disprove the original basis. .

The discovery “is huge enough to help us understand how life began on this planet and help us improve the ways we need to find life on Mars or Enceladus and in Europe,” Steele said, referring to Saturn and Jupiter’s underground oceans via email. .

According to Steele, the only way to prove that microbial life existed or still exists on Mars is to bring samples to Earth for analysis. NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has already collected six samples to return to Earth in a decade; three dozen samples are required.

The meteorite, identified as ALH84001, was found in the camera of the Johnson Space Center Laboratory in Houston, August 7, 1996.
Small samples taken from the meteorite show that the carbon-rich compounds are actually the result of water.

Millions of years after flying in space, the meteorite landed on an ice rink in Antarctica thousands of years ago. A small gray-green piece got its name – Allan Hills 84001 – from the hills found.

It was this week that part of this meteorite was used in the first type of experiment on the International Space Station. A mini-scanning electron microscope examined the sample; Thomas-Keprta led it from a distance from Houston. Researchers hope to use the microscope to analyze geological samples in space – for example, one day a month – and debris that could damage the station’s equipment or endanger astronauts.

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