NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, which has been exploring the martian atmosphere since a long time, has found crucial leads about the possibility of microscopic life on the Red Planet some three billion years ago.
The revelations have been made following examination of images sent over by Curiosity rover.
Geobiologist Nora Noffke, from Virginia’s Old Dominion University, studied the photos of an age-old sedimentary rock captured by Curiosity in the year 2012 and discovered an evident similarity with the microbial structures on the Earth.
Noffke managed to uncover geological structures that appear to be fossilized structures of some types of microscopic life, which the scientists believe the Red Planet may have supported ones.
The morphological features were found in the rock outcrop of Mars that appeared similar to the microbially-induced sedimentary structures (MISS) on Earth.
We know that microbe colonies rearranged sediments at shallow bodies of water billions of years ago and the patterns left by them can be studied millennia later. Noffke said in her analysis that we now have evidence to prove that the surface of Mars went through a similar process.
“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,” Noffke said.
In the study, Noffke has compared images taken by Curiosity to images of MISS on Earth from various places, like the images clicked from the Portsmouth Island in the US, the Mellum Island in Germany and Carbla Point in Western Australia. Some of the images compared include the fossil examples at the Pongola Supergroup in Africa, Bahar Alouane in Tunisia and the Dresser Formation in Western Australia.
Planetary scientist and associate editor of Astrobiology Chris McKay explained, “I’ve seen many research papers that say ‘Look, here’s a pile of dirt on Mars, and here’s a pile of dirt on Earth. That’s an easy argument to make, and it’s typically not very convincing. But, Noffke’s paper is the most carefully done study of the sort that I’ve seen and that is why it’s the first of its kind published in Astrobiology.”
The Mars rover Curiosity is not equipped enough for carrying out the microscopic analysis of the sediments and to provide evidence for the hypothesis of Noffke. The American space agency would require to bring back the samples to our planet for further study.