The biggest question Mars-related scientists are grappling with is: Did the red planet ever host life? While the search for life on Mars is underway and more dynamic than ever, it’s unlikely to find any conclusive results anytime soon. NASA aims to bring back Martian samples by 2030, and only analysis of these samples will determine whether life exists on Mars. However, scientists are studying material from Mars — in the form of meteorites. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden investigated a 1.3 billion-year-old meteorite from Mars and found that it had limited contact with water. That is, it is unlikely that life existed at that particular time and place.
The scientists used neutron and X-ray tomography techniques that will be used to study samples the Perseverance rover is collecting and will bring back from Mars to reach their conclusions. They used the technique to see if there were any major hydrothermal systems generally favorable to life. X-ray tomography is a common method of studying objects without damaging them. Neutron tomography is used because neutrons are sensitive to hydrogen.
Hydrogen is always of interest to find traces of life on another planet, as water (H2O) is a prerequisite for life as we know it. “Since water is at the heart of the question of whether there is life on Mars, we wanted to investigate how much the meteorite reacted with water when it was still part of the Martian bedrock,” says Josefin Martell, a PhD student in geology at Lund University. statement.
The findings suggest that a small portion of the meteorite appears to have reacted with water. This means that samples of the Martian crust at that particular period “could not provide a habitable environment that could harbor any life on Mars,” the scientists wrote in their study published in the journal Science Advances.
They hope their findings will help NASA scientists study the samples as they bring them back to Earth.
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