Interested in Mars? Study at OSU.

March 24th, 2006

An OSU researcher is the lead author on a study in the upcoming journal Astrobiology to determine if there was past life on Mars. The object of his research is the Nakhla meteorite, which fell from the sky in 1911 near Nakhla in Egypt. The object was later identified as belonging to an exclusive group of objects known as SNC meteorites, considered to come from the surface of Mars. (MSNBC)

Microscopic view of Nakhla meteorite from Mars
This microscopic view highlights structures within a thin slice of the Nakhla meteorite from Mars. A fracture (tan) and tunnels (in boxes) are similar in size and shape to the tunnels associated with bacterial activity in terrestrial rocks.

Martin Fisk, an Oregon State marine geology professor, explains, “Virtually all of the tunnel marks on Earth rocks that we have examined were the result of bacterial invasion. In every instance, we’ve been able to extract DNA from these Earth rocks, but we have not yet been able to do that with the Martian samples.”

Fisk said it is commonly believed that water is an essential ingredient for life. “So if bacteria laid down the tunnels in the rock when the rock was wet, they may have died 600 million years ago. That may explain why we can’t find DNA — it is an organic compound that can break down.”

Olivia Mason, an OSU graduate student, is also part of the research team.


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