Updated: Sunday, 12th July 2020 @ 9:02am

Life on Mars? Meteorite may prove existence of aliens, claims Manchester professor

Life on Mars? Meteorite may prove existence of aliens, claims Manchester professor

| By Nsofwa Kangwa

A 1.3billion-year-old meteorite may hold proof of the existence of life on Mars, according to a Manchester professor.

The finding of a ‘cell-like’ structure, known as Nakhla, which investigators now know once held water, came after Professor Ian Lyon from the University of Manchester and Dr Elias Chatzitheodoridis of the National Technical University of Athens teamed up to study the meteorite.

Dr. Chatzitheodoridis initially found the unusual feature rooted deep within a rock before calling on the expert advice of long-time friend and fellow researcher Professor Lyon in a bid to understand what the new finding could mean.

Professor Lyon, based in Manchester’s School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, 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.”

As the planet has proven to provide all the conditions to form and develop life in the past, the startling new findings add more to the speculation over whether there really is life on Mars.

It also means that there’s more evidence suggesting that large asteroids collided with Mars and produced long-lasting hydrothermal fields, commonly found in volcanic areas where hot water meets magma that could sustain life.

Dr Sarah Haigh of the University of Manchester also used a specialised imaging procedure to reveal the atomic layers of materials inside the meteorite.

A similar technique is used in producing high-resolution imaging for next-generation electronic devices, where stacking together single atomic sheets of pure carbon and other materials is used to develop faster, lighter and bendable mobile phones and tablets.

Together their combined experimental approach has revealed new insights into the geological origins of this fascinating structure.

Professor Lyon said: “In many ways, it resembled a fossilised biological cell from Earth but it was intriguing because it was undoubtedly from Mars.

“Our research found that it probably wasn’t a cell but that it did once hold water, water that had been heated, probably as a result of an asteroid impact.

“Before we return samples from Mars, we must examine them further, but in more delicate ways.  We must carefully search for further evidence.”

The university’s team of researchers are continuing to use state-of-the-art techniques to investigate new, secondary materials to study the meteorite while searching for other possible biological processes that indicate life past or present.

Image courtesy of Kabsik Park with thanks