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Ancient Life on Mars: Cell-Like Structure In Meteorite Nakhla

Life is intricately linked with water – our body cells are made up of this very liquid that is crucial to our existence. Scientists have therefore pinned their hopes of finding life forms beyond the Earth on the possible presence of water on other planets. The meteorite that fell in El-Nakhla in Egypt back in 1911, previously shown to be originating from Mars, has revealed the possible presence of water in its interior: perhaps, this is indicative of life on Mars?


Picture showing a piece of Nakhla, the Martian meteorite

The famous Martian meteorite, Nakhla, has revealed a puzzling oval structure in its make-up. Pieces of Nakhla had fallen on Earth back in 1911. It got its name from the place where it kissed the Earth’s surface: El-Nakhla in Egypt. Dating methods showed that its crystallisation age is around 1.38 billion years old.

A sample of Nakhla was examined by researchers which exposed a cell-like oval structure with a concentric wall.

“In many ways it resembled a fossilized biological cell from Earth but it was intriguing because it was undoubtedly from Mars,” said Prof Ian Lyon of the University of Manchester, a team member and the senior author of the study.

“There is strong textural and chemical evidence that the ovoid structure is indigenous to Nakhla and originated on Mars,” the scientists wrote in the paper.

Professor Lyon also stated that the sample was most likely not a cell, but that it might have held water in its midst.

This adds up the body of evidence that hints towards the possibility of life on Mars. Life cannot be conceived without the presence of water. That is why scientists have focused their efforts on finding traces of the life-liquid on Mars in order to determine whether it could have sustained life at some point.

Professor Lyon said: “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.”

The scientific paper was published in the journal Astrobiology.


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