Evidence of Possible Life Found in Martian / Moroccon Meteorite

A Martian meteorite which crashed into the Moroccan Desert in 2011 has yielded tantalizing clues which strongly suggest that it harbored organic material while still on Mars. Named “Tissint” after a town near to where it was discovered following a a fiery nighttime descent, there is no doubt that the meteorite came from Mars, and that it arrived bearing carbon compounds in small fissures. The only question is the source.

Here is the abstract from the Meteoritics and Planetary Science original journal:

Two petrographic settings of carbonaceous components, mainly filling open fractures and occasionally enclosed in shock-melt veins, were found in the recently fallen Tissint Martian meteorite. The presence in shock-melt veins and the deuterium enrichments (δD up to +1183‰) of these components clearly indicate a pristine Martian origin. The carbonaceous components are kerogen-like, based on micro-Raman spectra and multielemental ratios, and were probably deposited from fluids in shock-induced fractures in the parent rock of Tissint. After precipitation of the organic matter, the rock experienced another severe shock event, producing the melt veins that encapsulated a part of the organic matter. The C isotopic compositions of the organic matter (δ13C = −12.8 to −33.1‰) are significantly lighter than Martian atmospheric CO2 and carbonate, providing a tantalizing hint for a possible biotic process. Alternatively, the organic matter could be derived from carbonaceous chondrites, as insoluble organic matter from the latter has similar chemical and isotopic compositions. The presence of organic-rich fluids that infiltrated rocks near the surface of Mars has significant implications for the study of Martian paleoenvironment and perhaps to search for possible ancient biological activities on Mars.

Scientists quoted in a number of press reports state that while a non-organic source is possible, the simplest explanation also happens to be the most exciting.


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