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Like Earth, the poles of Mars have not always been where they are today. In fact, Mars seems to have transformed dramatically during its roughly 4.5-billion-year life. One striking feature known as the Tharsis Bulge — it's 5 miles high (8 kilometers) and covers a sixth of the planet — illustrates how a changing shape would have altered its axis over time, scientists say.
Analysis of the interior revealed channels and pores filled with a complex mixture of carbon compounds. Some of this forms a dark, branching - or dendritic - material when seen under the microscope.
If it is indigenous to Mars, the authors say the "carbonaceous material" came either from another space rock that smashed into Mars hundreds of thousands of years ago, or is a relic of microbial activity. A resemblance between the material in the meteorite and features of microbial activity in volcanic glass from our planet's ocean floor further support the idea they are biological in origin, says the paper. If this is the case, the remains of these organisms and their slimy coatings might provide the the carbon-rich material found in Nakhla, the researchers argue.