Not proof of life after all: 'Fossil' in famous Martian meteorite made by water, not aliens

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A new study completes 25 years of declining confidence in the rapid response to meteorite. The truth may remain there, but it is not in this rock

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The Allan Hills 84001 meteorite was the most exciting rock in the world, not because of its spectacular appearance. It is gray in weight, weighs slightly more than two pounds[2 kg]and is about the size of a potato.

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It was interesting because of where it came from and what it brought – buried, apparently – and was praised by someone younger than former US President Bill Clinton as the first human evidence of celestial life.

Now, however, thanks to a new study of the unusual formation of celestial objects within this meteorite, it has returned to a mere fascination – the outer, the real, but made of inanimate interactions of water and rock.

A new report in Science magazine concludes by saying that the “serpentinization” of the rock was due to the “water change” of the rock under well-known conditions dating to Martian geology. In simple terms, they are made of water, not aliens.

This frustration ends 25 years of declining confidence in global interest in finding a meteorite. The truth may remain there, but it is not in this rock.

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Allan Hills 84001, named after the first specimens collected in 1984 at the Allan Hills site in Antarctica, was formed as part of the Mars eruption about four billion years ago, and remained there until recently, about 17 million years ago. The asteroid hit Mars and sent this rock into space, where it orbited for years, and eventually landed near the southern hemisphere.

It was discovered in 1984 in Antarctica by Roberta Score, a meteorite expert with the United States Antarctic Program. It was found lying dormant on the ice, undisturbed by anything but wind for more than 10,000 years.

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Antarctica is a suitable meteorite hunt because it is visible when landing. In Canada, systematic meteorite hunting in Canada is usually limited to Prairies for similar reasons.

Sleep where it was, would just come from the air. “Everything you found in the glacier was a meteorite,” Score told a news conference in 1996. By this time, his rock had become famous all over the world.

A few years later, just before he won The Da Vinci Code, potboiler author Dan Brown wrote a book called Deception Point based on his findings.

Meteorite is usually composed of a silicate mineral called orthopyroxene, but it also contains “carbonate globules,” living organisms that are associated with life, but can be described in other ways, including even pollution here on Earth.

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The discovery of these signatures in 1996 by a team led by NASA’s senior astronomer had the potential to change science and improve public understanding of its position in the cosmos. This was a definite proof of the tiny bacteria inside the meteorite, similar to the bacteria thought to be the oldest living creatures on earth.

The story spread. This was the first visible earthly life, not of bacteria, but of Martian bacteria, which seemed to have left a signature on the rock called serpentinization, also known as snake skin.

Orange-carbonate mineral globules are shown in a meteorite, called ALH84001, which is believed to have existed on Mars.
Orange-carbonate mineral globules are shown in a meteorite, called ALH84001, which is believed to have existed on Mars. Image and File

The production of serpentinization is important for biological research because it produces methane, an organic compound, without any organism. Methane in the atmosphere is often considered to be a good source of life, but only if it is derived from bacteria, as most terrestrial methane does. Serpentinization can also help to create the natural molecules that are essential to the origin of life.

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It is not difficult for the president of the United States to comment immediately on the publication of a new scientific study, but Clinton called the Allan Hills 84001 study a “time of discovery” and announced a special “space conference”. Speaking at the White House South Lawn, he rightly closed his comments as if his findings were found to be incorrect, but his tone was directed to the stars.

He stated: “If these discoveries are confirmed, then it will be one of the most remarkable discoveries in our universe that science has never discovered.

Mars has a history of providing large quantities of known extraterrestrial life that do not come out, and often include water.

For example, Percival Lowell, a 19th-century astronomer from the affluent Boston family, offered the idea of ​​Mars’ canals, which turned out to be false, but his research into the evidence led him to establish a major observatory in Arizona. . He also introduced the idea of ​​a “Planet X” that seemed to distort the ways of Uranus and Neptune, and although his calculations were deceptive, exploring this “Planet X” in its observational space led to the discovery of Pluto.

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This new scientific report breaks the mystery of the Allan Hills 84001, but similarly points to new discoveries that make life on earth possible.

“This kind of unnatural nature and the nature of the ecosystem are the catalysts for the production of carbon dioxide from which life could originate and represent the backbone that should be considered when examining evidence of past life on Mars,” said the lead author. Andrew Steele of the Carnegie Institution.

The same thing could have happened on the ancient Earth, he said, and it could also explain the fascinating discoveries made by Cassini’s spacecraft about methane on Enceladus, the moon of Saturn which is known to have a lot of ice on the surface, and possibly more on the ground. the host.

“All it takes for this type of organic synthesis is a brine containing carbon dioxide to be dissolved through combustible rocks,” Steele said. “Mars’ biological research is more than the answer to the question, ‘Are we alone?’ It also corresponds to the original location of the Earth and answers the question, ‘Where did we come from?’

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