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Opals from Mars found by NASA in the future could contain evidence of alien life discovered there, a new study by University of Glasgow researchers suggests. The researchers’ optimism about finding alien life in microbes contained in opals that originated on the Red Planet is based on their study of a fragment of a meteorite from Mars that fell in the town of Nakhla, Egypt, in 1911. The meteorite, which the researchers discovered contains trace amounts of fire opals, is named after the Egyptian town. The findings of the Glasgow researchers was published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.
Fire opals, which are brilliantly colored red, orange, and yellow because of the iron in them, are often found in jewelry. Also, fire opals discovered on Earth often preserve microbes in them, much like amber preserves insects. The opals sometimes form near hot springs and the microbial life there becomes imprisoned in the gemstones. If there was alien microbial life on Mars, and future NASA missions recover specimens of fire opals that contain microbes, that could be the evidence needed that alien life once existed on the planet.
Professor Martin Lee of the University of Glasgow’s School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, the study’s lead author, said that the discovery of fire opals on Mars is important because the finding confirms “NASA’s imaging and exploration of the Martian surface” that appeared to show the presence of large amounts of opals there. Also, he stated that opals “can trap and preserve these microbes for millions of years.”
The Nakhla Martian meteorite fragment that the researchers studied and wrote about was very small. It weighed just 1.7 grams, but the trace amounts of fire opals it contained could make the focus of future NASA missions the collection and study of Martian opals.
The University of Glasgow researchers used an electron microscope to scan the meteorite fragment. The rest of the Nakhla meteorite is on display in the U.K. at the Natural History Museum.
The opal in it formed when silica interacted with water, which existed at one time in the history of Mars, and might still exist there in underground reservoirs. Where there once was water enough to form the opals, the researchers suggest that it might have been possible for alien life to also have existed there.
There is a possibility that alien life still is alive on Mars, assuming that it has ever existed there. Trace water on the surface of the Red Planet was detected by NASA’s rover two years ago, in 2013. This discovery was published in Science Mag. With water still being on the planet, even if it is there in only trace amounts, that increases the likelihood that alien life will one day be discovered there by a future NASA mission.
That is why the discovery of fire opals that originated on Mars, found in a meteorite from the planet, is such big news. What is a gemstone commonly used in jewelry on Earth could lead scientists here to the proof that this planet is not the only one in the universe to have life or to have once had life on it. The fire opals on Mars found by NASA on some future mission, if they contain alien microbes preserved in them, could be the evidence needed that we are not alone in the universe.
Written and Edited By Douglas Cobb
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