Researchers looking at a Martian meteorite that crashed on our planet all the way back in 1911 have discovered opal deposits, and with them come new signs that the Red Planet may have once hosted life.
Officially called “fire opals”, the stones are precious gems that sport shades of yellow, orange and red. On planet Earth they form in and around areas with hot springs, and the researchers from the University of Glasgow say that it might even be possible for them to find traces of life forms trapped right inside the gems. Fire opal is typically created when water interacts with silica.
Martin Lee, a professor over at the University of Glasgow, the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, gave a statement in a press release informing that such conditions are actually favorable for microbial life. They don’t just survive there, they thrive, and opal has the needed properties to trap them and preserve them for millions of years.
He went to theorize that if Martian microbes do in fact exist, it is very possible that they may have been preserved in the opal deposits as well. The researchers from the University of Glasgow were aided by a powerful electron microscope in their discovery of the fire opal.
The meteorite that the 1.7 gram deposits were found on is known as “Nakhla”, named in honor of the Egyptian town that it crashed in, and currently resides at London’s Natural History Museum. It is believed to have been blasted off of Mars by an unknown object that packed a powerful strike.
While this is the first time that researchers have managed to confirm the existence of opal deposits on the Red Planet, it is not the first time that they’ve come across the notion. Several Martian Rovers have also picked up on opal reading while roaming the surface of the planet.
Between the years of 1999 and 2006, the Nakhla meteorite has been at the center of many other discoveries revolving around biological activity. While researchers have not yet been able to find an actual life form, they agree that the sign are simply too many to ignore.
And in 2013, the very same team from the University of Glasgow also found secondary material while examining Nakhla. They were formed by interactions that took place between mater and minerals such as augite and olivine. Their finding was the first piece of undeniable proof that water dissolved the surface of Mars.
The paper was published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.
Image Source: nasa.gov