[CNI News thanks AUFORA News Update (email@example.com) for forwarding this item from CNN, dated November 1, 1996.]
There's new fuel for the debate over life on Mars.
British scientists [on Oct 31] said they found chemical traces in a meteorite that, they say, are consistent with the presence of life on the red planet.
The Britons say they found organic matter in two meteorites -- one was the meteorite tested by NASA [as announced on August 7] and the other, a newly tested meteorite that crashed to Earth 600,000 years ago. Scientists believe the rock itself is between 140 million and 160 million years old.
Researchers at London's Open University and London's Natural History Museum say they found residues and chemicals in the rock that could only be formed by living organisms.
"This is a smoking gun for life on Mars," said chemist Ian Wright, one of the trio of scientists in the new study. "I believe we will be in a position soon to study Martian metabolism."
"I believe I can say life existed -- and may still -- exist on Mars," Wright added.
Astronomer Colin Pillinger, one of the researchers, told a news briefing Thursday that he first presented chemical evidence from the meteorite (named 79001) in 1989 in the magazine Nature to suggest that life existed on Mars. But other scientists criticized his findings, saying the matter found in the meteorite could have been picked up on the meteorite's trip to Earth.
After the NASA scientists' announcement of their evidence from meteorite AHL84001, Pillinger re-ran his experiment this month on several samples from both meteorites.
This time, he said, he carried out his experiments on parts of 79001 that had become sealed in a glass-like substance before the meteorite came to Earth, and thus was insulated from the Earth's organic matter.
The most important finding, Pillinger said, is that 79001 contains significant amounts of organic material -- up to 1,000 parts per million -- which has yet to be identified.
Some scientists are still skeptical that these trace elements found in Martian meteorites hold enough convincing proof to say that life has ever been present on Mars.
NASA is trying to find out more by launching two missions to the planet this year [the first, Mars Global Surveyor, was launched on November 7].
Steve Maran of the American Astronomical Society says the Mars probes weren't built specifically to look for life on the planet. "No one imagined that that was something to do at the time they were designed. So we're going to have to be very clever on how we use them," he said.
Original file name: .CNI - Brits.New Mars Evidence
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