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New Study of Tissint Meteorite Reveals More Evidence of Possible Life on Mars

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posted on Dec, 3 2014 @ 11:37 AM
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First, a little background:

The Tissint meteorite fell to Earth on July 18, 2011 in Morocco and is only the fifth Martian meteorite known to have been witnessed falling to Earth. It is believed to have been ejected from the surface of Mars following an impact approximately 700,000 years ago and is notable for bearing signs of water weathering as well as evidence of the deposition of material carried into fissures by a fluid, presumably water.

Fragment of Tissint Meteorite. Image: Natural History Museum, London via NYT

In 2012, the meteorite made something of a splash when Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe claimed that microscopic egg shaped carbon and oxygen rich globules were conclusive evidence of the existence of microbial life on Mars at some point in its history.

Visible cracks on the globule are in the gold coating added for electron microscopy

That discovery was discussed in a previous ATS thread which can be found here. Unfortunately Professor Wickramasinghe, one of the most influential proponents of panspermia, is something of a zealot in support of his own theories and is no stranger to criticism from other scientists for often ignoring alternative, sometimes more plausible explanations for the structures he's noted in Martian meteorites.

A new analysis of a fragment of the meteorite conducted by researchers from China, Switzerland, Japan and Germany, published this month in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science, makes a strong case that carbon compounds found in tiny fissures in the fragment are not only biological in origin but were deposited in the rock at relatively low temperatures on Mars. One of the major problems when studying meteorites is determining whether or not structures/material found in the specimen are due to terrestrial contamination or not. These researchers are of the opinion that they've ruled out terrestrial origins and there are four points in support of their conclusion outlined in a CNET article published yesterday:


First, there was a relatively short timeframe between when the meteorite was observed falling to Earth and when it was collected.

The second is that the microscopic fissures in the rock would have had to have been produced by a sudden high heat -- such as, for example, the heat of atmospheric entry. This shock, and the temperatures required to open the fissures, could not have come from the Moroccan desert.

Thirdly, some of the carbon grains inside Tissint had hardened into diamond. There are no known conditions under which this could have occurred on the surface of the Moroccan desert -- and certainly not in the time it took between the meteorite's fall and discovery.

Fourthly, the carbon contains a high amount of deuterium, heavy hydrogen with one proton and one neutron in its nucleus -- consistent with the composition of Mars geology. "Such an enormous concentration of deuterium is the typical 'finger print' of Martian rocks as we know already from previous measurements," study co-author Professor Ahmed El Goresy of the University of Bayreuth, Germany, said.


One of the paper's authors, Philippe Gillet, director of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne's Earth and Planetary Sciences Laboratory, was quoted by NDTV:


"So far, there is no other theory that we find more compelling"
[...]
"Insisting on certainty is unwise, particularly on such a sensitive topic. However, our conclusions are such that they will rekindle the debate as to the possible existence of biological activity on Mars - at least in the past"

The paper's senior author, Professor Yangting Lin of the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing also offered similarly guarded optimism over the team's findings (from CNET source):

"We cannot and do not want to entirely exclude the possibility that organic carbon within Tissint may be of abiotic origin"
[...]
"It could be possible that the organic carbon originated from impacts of carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. However, it is not easy to conceive by which processes chondritic carbon could have been selectively extracted from the impacting carbonaceous chondrites, selectively removed from the soil and later impregnated in the extremely fine rock veins."


Additional sources: IB Times, Huff Post, Daily Mail, Times of India
edit on 2014-12-3 by theantediluvian because: (no reason given)




posted on Dec, 3 2014 @ 12:13 PM
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Unfortunately Professor Wickramasinghe, one of the most influential proponents of panspermia, is something of a zealot in support of his own theories

The good professor aside, so far there has not been even an inkling of life found outside earths biosphere.

Now I said so far.

Life is as rare as a diamond. They're out there, just not in my backyard.



posted on Dec, 3 2014 @ 12:54 PM
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originally posted by: intrptr



Unfortunately Professor Wickramasinghe, one of the most influential proponents of panspermia, is something of a zealot in support of his own theories

The good professor aside, so far there has not been even an inkling of life found outside earths biosphere.

Now I said so far.

Life is as rare as a diamond. They're out there, just not in my backyard.


That's not necessarily true. Can it be definitively proven that the structures found in ALH84001 are not fossilized nanobacteria? Analysis of magnetite in the sample from 2002 and again in 2009 certainly seemed to support McKay's 1996 discovery. Yamato 000593 has microscopic carbon globules and tunnels that may have been formed by biotic activity. The Murchison meteorite was found to be chock full of organic compounds including something like 70 amino acids, xanthine and uracil.



posted on Dec, 3 2014 @ 01:07 PM
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a reply to: theantediluvian


The Murchison meteorite was found to be chock full of organic compounds including something like 70 amino acids, xanthine and uracil.

So thats "life"?

Chemistry involving the boiling away of volatiles in space vacuum doesn't impress me.



posted on Dec, 3 2014 @ 01:20 PM
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a reply to: theantediluvian

Absolutely. This is just icing on an already well baked cake. ALH84001,Yamoto 000593 and Muchison, all heavily analyzed with the conclusion by the world's top scientists that there was biologic material preserved in their matrix. Those poor scientists that have spent years on this research will wind up being trumped by politics and money. (as usual)



posted on Dec, 3 2014 @ 01:28 PM
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a reply to: intrptr

Of course not but if it turns out that compounds integral to life on Earth are fairly common in the cosmos, then it follows that there is a greater likelihood that life could be more common than if they weren't found. Notice I threw the bit about Murchison in last. I also excluded anything from Wickramasinghe as well as some other less credible claims such as those by Italians Bruno D'Argegno and Giuseppe Geraci, who claimed to have found "resurrected" bacteria of extraterrestrial origin in a meteorite found in Antarctica in 2001.

You said:


The good professor aside, so far there has not been even an inkling of life found outside earths biosphere.


I was just pointing out that your statement was debatable.
edit on 2014-12-3 by theantediluvian because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 3 2014 @ 01:55 PM
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originally posted by: theantediluvian

originally posted by: intrptr



Unfortunately Professor Wickramasinghe, one of the most influential proponents of panspermia, is something of a zealot in support of his own theories

The good professor aside, so far there has not been even an inkling of life found outside earths biosphere.

Now I said so far.

Life is as rare as a diamond. They're out there, just not in my backyard.


That's not necessarily true. Can it be definitively proven that the structures found in ALH84001 are not fossilized nanobacteria?


You have the burden of proof backwards. Just sayin'


Also the mere detection of organic compounds does not mean the detection of life though the fact that they are fairly common gives us hope that life will be too.

edit on 3-12-2014 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 3 2014 @ 02:57 PM
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a reply to: JadeStar


You have the burden of proof backwards. Just sayin'


I'm not trying to prove anything — as far as ALH84001, that burden fell on David S. McKay (now deceased) and his co-authors. All I was pointing out is that it was research from esteemed scientists (who aren't connected to Wickramasinghe) and that their hypothesis for what the structures are is still in the running afaik.


Also the mere detection of organic compounds does not mean the detection of life though the fact that they are fairly common gives us hope that life will be too.


That's basically what I said:


Of course not but if it turns out that compounds integral to life on Earth are fairly common in the cosmos, then it follows that there is a greater likelihood that life could be more common than if they weren't found.


Good grief! Tough crowd in this thread!



posted on Dec, 3 2014 @ 03:32 PM
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a reply to: charlyv
Actually, similarities between biogenic features on Earth rock and features found in Martian meteorites does not constitute proof. This is the crutch. It's healthy skepticism to ask for more.

It's like they have a picture which looks like a lifeform but it's just a picture and could also be an optical illusion. To prove it's a lifeform you need other sources of evidence to rule out illusion or other explanations.

What I'd like to see is a summing up of all peer reviewed research on these meteorites to see how many are for or against a biological marker. In fact, how many peer reviewed papers have been published?

Here're some of hte meteorites in question, already referenced by the OP:
en.wikipedia.org - Murchison meteorite...
en.wikipedia.org - Yamato 000593...
en.wikipedia.org - Tissint meteorite...
en.wikipedia.org - Allan Hills 84001...

Here's an article which shows the complex carbon molecules in the martian meteorites are abiotic and martian in origin:
www.universetoday.com - Organics Found in Mars Meteorites, But Nothing Biological...

The team set out to answer these questions and came to the conclusion that the molecules are indeed from Mars and not the result of some cross-contamination from Earth’s biosphere. However, they also found that the molecules were not created by any biological process. The organics actually formed in the chunks of rock that later became the meteorites that transported them to earth. Their formation was part of a volcanic process that traps carbon in crystal structures formed by cooling magma. Through a series of non-biological chemical reactions, the complex organics found in the meteorites are created using the carbon trapped in these crystals.

I'm not altogether sure though what this research portends insofar as the presence of any biological markers in the martian meteorites they examined. It does mean Mars can produce its own complex organics - necessary for life to originate there. I've read in the past these complex organics can also be brought to planets/moons via cometary impacts. It's thought to be a precursor to life for these compounds to be present. The question I ask is whether a biological explanation for these organic compounds is necessary for there to be a biological sign present. And by biological sign I mean anything which hints to hte past presence of biology.
edit on 3-12-2014 by jonnywhite because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 3 2014 @ 04:11 PM
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a reply to: jonnywhite


What I'd like to see is a summing up of all peer reviewed research on these meteorites to see how many are for or against a biological marker. In fact, how many peer reviewed papers have been published?


There's quite a bit actually, particularly on ALH84001. If you Google something like "ALH84001 abstract" you'll get an idea.



posted on Dec, 3 2014 @ 05:43 PM
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a reply to: theantediluvian

Its all good. You should be aware, I have been watching all the planetary probes and landers since I was a kid. They been everywhere expect Pluto.

Each time they go… life, maybe?

Loved the science aspect of what you brought.

Not holding my breath for conjecture about the "origins" of life. That story is as old as us.

They aren't looking for life anyway (imo). They're surveying for mineral wealth.

I cant wait till some rich clown finances an asteroid capture, tries bringing it to earth and ends up crashing it into the sea, wiping out all the life.



posted on Dec, 3 2014 @ 06:23 PM
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a reply to: intrptr


I cant wait till some rich clown finances an asteroid capture, tries bringing it to earth and ends up crashing it into the sea, wiping out all the life.


Glad I'm not the only one who had this thought lol.



posted on Dec, 4 2014 @ 02:43 AM
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a reply to: jonnywhite



Here's an article which shows the complex carbon molecules in the martian meteorites are abiotic and martian in origin:

I spent some time looking at several of these papers, including some of the references. Here's some interesting thoughts:

1. The article you cited bases its theory on an earlier proposed hypothesis that the crust of Mars is heavy with graphite.
2. The crustal graphite hypothesis is based on modelling the organics in the Nakhlite Miller Range meteorite.

So basically they built an hypothesis of the abiotic origin of Mars meteoritic carbon based on analysis of a meteorite. Then that hypothesis was used to analyze a larger set of meteorites to prove that their carbon content was not of abiotic origin. For some reason the term circle-j**k come to mind here.

In the latest article, the researchers used multi-elemental abundance ratios relative to carbon, in addition to the SEM tests performed in the 2012 paper. They found the elemental ratios are more closely related to the kerogen-like organic compounds found in coal than that found in graphite.

The 2014 analysis also apparently used a different mounting technique for the sample than was used previously. They used an adhesive free method that made it easier to locate and differentiate the organic carbon located in fractures in the rock. Those fractures contain a kerogen-like organic compound that appears to have originated externally to the formation of the basaltic rock, and probably were deposited by the infiltration of organic-rich fluids into the rock as it lay on the surface of the planet.

The authors also leveled some criticism at the testing methodologies used in the past. They propose that previous analyses assumed carbon liberated at lower temperatures was indicative of terrestrial contamination, while higher temperatures would be indicative of a Martian origin. However their calculations indicate that a significant quantity of the biotically based carbon would be released in the lower temperature range. They state that the bulk fractionation of the sample without the petrographic context, i.e. where the biotic carbon is located in the rock, as used previously, could lead to incorrect conclusions.

Overall it seemed to me that the researchers addressed many of points made in earlier papers that concluded the organic compounds were of an igneous origin.



The question I ask is whether a biological explanation for these organic compounds is necessary for there to be a biological sign present. And by biological sign I mean anything which hints to hte past presence of biology.

In this article, I don't think the researchers theorized that all of the organic matter in the meteorites was of a biotic origin. They concentrated on certain locations that contained a signature that was more indicative of a biotic origin.

As far as the necessity of a biological explanation for the organic matter, I would assume that the scientific community would require that as a prerequisite. Even then, there are still other possible explanations for the origination of the biotic organic carbon. After a billion years, I'm not sure what other biological signs they can investigate.



dex



posted on Dec, 4 2014 @ 04:02 AM
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posted on Dec, 4 2014 @ 02:03 PM
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a reply to: DexterRiley

Nice synopsis!



posted on Dec, 4 2014 @ 04:02 PM
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My post on another thread, carried over to here for your viewing displeasure:

So we have life possibly being discovered in this meteorite, and the meteorite from Jim Oberg's thread (which I haven't read in a long time, so I don't know if my next words are outdated) which seems like another high-possibility fossil-containing meteorite, then the one from the 1990s which NASA got on board with for awhile...in a short period of time, maybe 20 years, there exists a body of evidence which indicates, but does not prove, that life once existed on Mars.

Proof on this one, if it comes at all or has come already and awaits people to put it all together, will emerge from a variety of technologies.



posted on Dec, 4 2014 @ 06:15 PM
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a reply to: theantediluvian

Thanks.

The interesting thing is that it takes quite a bit of time to read through all of these papers. Then in order to understand the origin of some of the theories upon which the main paper is based, you have to review the supporting documents. And they themselves may refer to other papers. This is, of course, the way it should work.

The biggest problem is access to the vast library of cross-referenced papers needed to actually review these articles. Fortunately, I came across a link to a site where many of these papers are available to people like me. That is to say those of us without a "need to know" so to speak. Had it been necessary for me to go through all of the standard "hoops of fire" to get to read those documents, I would never have been able to come to any personal conclusion as to the validity of the proposed theory. I would simply have been at the mercy of the Ivory Tower Ones who control access to this type of information and provide the simplified summaries they want the peons to consume.

It makes me wonder how the peer review process can work at all. If one is associated with a rather large institution that has subscriptions to all of these varied sources, then it's a lot easier. However, someone without all of those resources, who possesses the ability to comprehend the theory and discuss it, will never be part of the process. While I don't necessarily count myself among those who have the credentials to peer review works such as this, I'm certain there are a great many who are.

In any event, it was a fascinating little research project. And, I'm glad I was able to provide a bit more insight into the theory than is typically available via the MSM, or the paper abstracts.


dex



posted on Dec, 4 2014 @ 08:10 PM
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I've returned from out and about and came to really read this thread again (I had skimmed it before)...and I find some of the finest scientific-summary and analysis that I've read on ATS. Thanks everyone. And you picked a great topic to up the level of analysis, one of those events in history when a little more evidence of possible past life on Mars adds to the accumulating data.



posted on Dec, 4 2014 @ 09:29 PM
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Would someone please explain how meteorites are capable of leaving a planet’s surface and become spaceborn?

a reply to: theantediluvian



posted on Dec, 4 2014 @ 09:38 PM
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originally posted by: guitarplayer
Would someone please explain how meteorites are capable of leaving a planet’s surface and become spaceborn?

a reply to: theantediluvian



Levitation in some form or another, or.....massive meteors, big enough to make all those large craters, hitting at an angle with such force that some of the material that it hits is knocked off-planet. Look at the size of Gale Crater, where the Curiosity Rover is now - it's just my guess, but that's probably an upper-mid-range size crater. The material travels off-planet easier on Mars than it would on Earth too, due to its lesser gravity.
edit on 4-12-2014 by Aleister because: (no reason given)



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