Did The Curiosity Rover Just Find Fossilized Life On Mars?

No, it’s not a leg-bone or a coffin. Rather, geobiologist Nora Noffke claims that rock forms shown in Mars curiosity photos have a remarkable similarity to structures created by life on Earth. Through her in-depth analysis, she has even convinced a few NASA skeptics that she might be on to something.

According to Discovery News, Noffke examined an image taken by the Mars Curiosity Rover of a Gillespie Lake outcrop, situated in the Yellowknife Bay area of Gale Crater. The rover arrived at that location on Dec. 17, 2012, on sol 125 of its mission.

The area would theoretically be a great spot for ancient Martian life to have thrived. The rover has already shown that Mars once held liquid water, and the region it’s exploring was once an actual lake bed.

Using her 20 years of studying microbial life, she concluded that the rock structures in the ancient lake bed looked very similar to patterns found in Australia, patterns made by lifeforms.

Sedimentary Structures

Of course, looking really similar to life, doesn’t count as definitive proof of life on Mars, and Noffke realizes that, explaining, “All I can say is, here’s my hypothesis and here’s all the evidence that I have, although I do think that this evidence is a lot.”

Nevertheless, the geobiologist already has fans in high places.

NASA planetary scientist Chris McKay explained that it may not be proof, but it’s the most detailed examination of Mars photos he’s ever come across.

“I’ve seen many papers that say ‘Look, here’s a pile of dirt on Mars, and here’s a pile of dirt on Earth. And because they look the same, the same mechanism must have made each pile on the two planets.’ That’s an easy argument to make, and it’s typically not very convincing. However, Noffke’s paper is the most carefully done analysis of the sort that I’ve seen, which is why it’s the first of its kind published in Astrobiology.”

Noffke explained that her process once she had found something that looked like fossilized life.

“I took a closer look, meaning I spent several weeks investigating certain images centimeter by centimeter, drawing sketches, and comparing them to data from terrestrial structures.”

Nora Noffke’s full Mars fossil analysis can be found in Astrobiology Magazine.

Still, no matter how comprehensive the study is, it’s very difficult for the Curiosity rover to detect life. It simply wasn’t created for that sort of analysis. To follow-up Noffke’s study, the device would have to thinly slice the rocks in question and look at them under a microscope, far beyond the rover’s capability.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, many Mars watchers have found all sorts of hints of far more advanced life on Mars, including one object that looks like a thigh bone, but most of those have been dismissed as wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, in 2020, another Mars rover will land. According to the Christian Science Monitor, that rover will be specifically designed to detect life on Mars, and ultimately decide if Noffke’s stone structures really were formed from microbes or if the Martian rocks were just another promising, but ultimately false lead.

[Image Credits: newsdesk.si.edu and NASA]