18 years have passed since scientists from NASA tried to prove that water once existed on Mars and now, the theory is back with even stronger arguments. According to a team of experts at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, aMartian meteorite called Yamato 000593 contains distinct structures and compositional characteristics which could suggest that biological processes happened on Mars hundreds of millions of years ago. The meteorite, which was discovered in Antarctica approximately 50,000 years ago, was formed about 1.3 billion years ago from a lava flow. The team from NASA also suggests that an event caused the meteorite to detach from Mars around 12 million years ago.
In 1996, a group of experts at Johnson published an article in Science in which they announced the presence of biogenic proof in the Allan Hills 84001 meteorite, but the structures found in Yamato meteorite influenced two experts from the initial team, namely Everett Gibson and Kathie Thomas-Keprta, to join forces with Lauren White, based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Simon Clemett and revive the theory according to which Mars once sustained water, and possibly life. David McKay, who led the team which studied the Allan Hills meteorite, passed away last year. With the new study, NASA could prove that water existed on Mars.
White stated that Martian meteorites are the best chance scientists have to study samples from Mars and grasp whether water ever existed on this planet or not. When compared to robotic observations that are carried out nowadays, the curiosities “of the planet’s seemingly wetter past will be revealed.”
The team from NASA analyzed the Yamato meteorite and found similarities with the Martian meteorite Nakhla which fell in Egypt in 1911 and although the findings could be the result of abiotic mechanisms, textual and compositional resemblances to features in terrestrial samples imply that the Martian features were formed by biogenic activity.
The group of experts discovered micro-tunnel structures in the Yamato meteorite and spherules found between layers within the rock which determined NASA scientists to utter that water indeed existed on Mars and the proof lies in the meteorite’s history of water movement.
“The presence of carbonaceous matter associated with the clay phases” allows Gibson to state that Mars was active at a certain point in its history. The findings also unearth the fact that Mars may have an active reservoir of water with a carbon component, and although White does not exclude the possibility of contamination not only in Yamato, but also in Allan Hills, “these features are nonetheless interesting and show that further studies of these meteorites should continue.”
Currently, NASA is trying to prove that water existed at a certain point on Mars, which could also mean that life was possible.
Apart from the study in 1996, scientists also revived an analysis made by American astronomer Percival Lowell during the 20th century, which suggested that the lines that are visible on Mars through a telescope are, in fact, canals that used to channel water to a subterranean Martian civilization.
Although NASA discredited Lowell’s theory, studying Martian carbon is a work in progress, because it might lead to breakthrough discoveries with regard to proving that water existed on Mars.
By Gabriela Motroc