The biggest question scientists face when it comes to Mars is: Did the red planet ever support life? While the quest to find life on Mars is ongoing, and with more vigor than ever, a conclusive result is unlikely to be found soon. NASA aims to bring back samples from Mars by 2030 and only their analysis will tell if life existed on the planet. However, scientists are studying material from Mars – in the form of meteorites. Researchers from Lund University in Sweden studied a 1.3 billion-year-old meteorite from Mars and found that it had limited exposure to water. In other words, the existence of life at this particular time and place was unlikely.
The scientists used neutron and X-ray tomography, the same technology that will be used to study the samples that are collected by the Perseverance rover and will be brought back from Mars, to reach their conclusion. They used technology to figure out if there was a major, generally life-supporting, hydrothermal system. X-ray tomography is a common method for studying an object without damaging it. Neutron tomography was used because neutrons are sensitive to hydrogen.
Hydrogen is always interesting for finding traces of life on another planet because water (H2O) is a prerequisite for life as we know it. “Since water is central to the question of whether life ever existed on Mars, we wanted to investigate how much of the meteorite reacted with water while it was still part of the bedrock of Mars,” said Josefin Martell, a PhD student in geology at Lund University. in a report.
The findings show that a fairly small part of the meteorite appears to have reacted with water. This means that the sample of Martian crust “could not have provided habitable environments that could support life on Mars” during that specific period, the scientists write in the study published in the journal Science Advances.
They hope their findings will help NASA scientists study the samples when they are brought back to Earth.
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