PIA00285: Mars Life? - Microscopic Tubular Structures
Target Name: Mars
Is a satellite of: Sol (our sun)
Mission: Antarctic Meteorite Location and Mapping Project (AMLAMP)
Product Size: 720 x 493 pixels (width x height)
Producer ID: S96-12298
Addition Date: 1996-08-09
Full-Res TIFF: PIA00285.tif (283.5 kB)
Full-Res JPEG: PIA00285.jpg (50.04 kB)

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This electron microscope image shows extremely tiny tubular structures that are possible microscopic fossils of bacteria-like organisms that may have lived on Mars more than 3.6 billion years ago. A two-year investigation by a NASA research team found organic molecules, mineral features characteristic of biological activity and possible microscopic fossils such as these inside of an ancient Martian rock that fell to Earth as a meteorite. The largest possible fossils are less than 1/100th the diameter of a human hair in size while most are ten times smaller. The fossil-like structures were found in carbonate minerals formed along pre-existing fractures in the meteorite in a fashion similar to the way fossils occur in limestone on Earth, although on a microscopic scale.

A NASA research team of scientists at the Johnson Space Center and at Stanford University has found evidence that strongly suggests primitive life may have existed on Mars more than 3.6 billion years ago. The NASA-funded team found the first organic molecules thought to be of Martian origin; several mineral features characteristic of biological activity; and possible microscopic fossils of primitive, bacteria-like organisms inside of an ancient Martian rock that fell to Earth as a meteorite. This array of indirect evidence of past life will be reported in the Aug. 16 issue of the journal Science, presenting the investigation to the scientific community at large to reach a future consensus that will either confirm or deny the team's conclusion.

Image Credit:
NASA/JSC/Stanford University

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