Cell-Like Structure in Mars Meteorite May Indicate Life On Red Planet

Scientists have discovered a strange, ovid structure resembling a cell inside a meteorite that fell to Earth early in the last century, and the astonishing find has revealed evidence that life could have once existed on Mars.

The Nakhla meteorite, within which researchers recently uncovered the cell-shaped find, originated on Mars and reached Earth in 1911, Space.com reports. Deeply studied, the meteorite was one of the first indicators that water existed on Mars in the past. Recently, scientists examining the meteorite discovered a biomorphic ovoid structure within it, resembling a microorganism. While the cell-like formation may appear to be biological in origin, raising the possibility that life could once have existed on Mars, researchers say that it is not direct evidence.

“The consideration of possible biotic scenarios for the origin of the ovoid structure in Nakhla currently lacks any sort of compelling evidence,” researchers claim. The team, led by Elias Chatzitheodoridis of the National Technical University of Athens, published their work in the journal Astrobiology, and concluded that the cell-like form was not the result of biological life on Mars:

“Therefore, based on the available data that we have obtained on the nature of this conspicuous ovoid structure in Nakhla, we conclude that the most reasonable explanation for its origin is that it formed through abiotic processes.”

As IFLScience notes, while the researchers posit that the formation is not conclusive proof of martian microorganisma, it has revealed a great deal of information about the composition and potential habitability of the Red Planet. The cell-shaped ovid, just 80 microns long and 60 microns wide, likely formed due to heat and pressure from an impact, which caused a “bubble” of vaporized liquid to form.

The Nakhla meteorite isn’t the only unusual piece of Mars to reach Earth, however. Although only 150 or so martian meteorites have been found, some have contained elements suggestive of an environment favorable for life. As The Inquisitr previously reported, a meteorite nicknamed “Black Beauty,” discovered three years ago in the Sahara, has exhibited a higher water content than other, younger martian meteorites.

While researchers didn’t uncover conclusive evidence of microbial life on Mars, they didn’t find anything ruling it out either. To the contrary, their work revealed the presence of several essential minerals. “Although compelling evidence for a biotic origin is lacking,” their work on the cell-like structure states, the meteorite proves that “it is evident that the Martian subsurface contains niche environments where life could develop.”

[Image via IFLScience]