Jun 24, 2019 | Updated: 11:41 AM EDT

Scientists Found Fossilized Microbes in 175 Million-Year-Old Martian Meteorite

Apr 09, 2019 07:51 AM EDT

Exterior view of ALHA 77005 showing small patches of fusion crust
(Photo : NASA - Johnson Space Center)
Exterior view of ALHA 77005 showing small patches of fusion crust

In 1977, a team from the Japanese National Institute of Polar Research found a meteorite in Antarctica's Allan Hills. They called the extra-terrestrial stone Allan Hills 77005 (ALH77005). The meteorite was said to be 175 million years in age.

Interior sawn surface of ALHA 77005 showing its coarse-grained igneoius texture.
(Photo : NASA - Johnson Space Center)
Interior sawn surface of ALHA 77005 showing its coarse-grained igneoius texture.

Having similar isotopic compositions with rocks and atmospheric gases in Mars, scientists have added ALH77005 to the list of Martian meteorites found on Earth. There are currently 224 meteorites that were Martian in nature included in the list as of January 2019. The connection between the planet Mars and these meteorites was confirmed by the Curiosity rover in October 2013. Data from the rover showing argon found in Martian atmosphere were the same argon traces found in the meteorites.

Just recently, researchers have reported that evidence of various forms of bacteria was found embedded in ALH77005. This piece of evidence supports the theory that the Red Planet might have been teeming with life once. This discovery was made by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS) Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences. 

The scientists from HAS were able to find the mineralized form of organic matter in the 482.5-gram meteorite. This discovery was made possible through optical microscopy and FTIR-ATR microscopy where the Martian meteorite's morphology and microtexture were detected. A very thin section of the meteorite was used for this study.

The researchers reported finding filament-like organic material within the Martian meteorite. The said material was said to be similar to those that were produced by iron-oxidizing microbes.

Ildiko Gyollai, one of the researchers from HAS Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences stated that their discovery is a step forward not only to studies concerning planetary sciences, but also to other sciences such as earth, biological, environmental, and chemical sciences.

Gyollai explained that the discovery offers an example of a novel aspect of microbial mediation in stone meteorites.

In 1996, a group of scientists also came forward with a study showing that a Martian meteorite they were studying, ALH84001 shows evidence of microscopic fossilized Martian bacteria. However, after the unusual aspects of the meteorite have been given an explanation without requiring any life form to be present, the scientific community ultimately rejected the hypothesis. 

With the results of the current discovery, the scientists have suggested that research and examination of objects from the solar system should always be checked for signs of microbial forms, especially within space rocks.

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