Another NASA scientist has announced evidence of possible fossil life in yet another meteorite, according to stories in Nando Times, Reuters and the San Francisco Examiner on August 1, 1997.
Astrophysicist Richard B. Hoover said he had found what may be the fossilized remains of extraterrestrial microorganisms in the so-called Murchison meteorite that fell on Australia in September 1969.
"It is potentially the case that it's signs of life from somewhere other than the planet Earth. That is a real possibility that must be considered," Hoover told Reuters in a telephone interview from San Diego, California.
The Murchison meteorite is a type known as a carbonaceous chondrite, rich in water and organic molecules.
Hoover, an astrophysicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, made his announcement in a paper presented in San Diego on the opening day of a four-day conference on the search for extraterrestrial life. He cautioned that more study was needed and he could not say for sure where the meteorite or its microscopic structures came from.
On August 7, 1996, a team of scientists held a press conference to announce their finding of possible microbial fossils in a meteorite recovered in 1984 in Antarctica. It is widely agreed that that meteorite originated on the planet Mars, and the announcement of possible life-signs inside it immediately added strong impetus to NASA's plans to explore Mars.
The evidence of life in the Mars meteorite remains inconclusive and controversial. A wide variety of further tests by several different science teams has resulted in contradictory conclusions. There is a growing consensus that only rock and soil samples collected on Mars itself will resolve the question of life, past or present, on the Red Planet.
Be that as it may, the Murchison meteorite is not from Mars, scientists say; nor is it from the moon. Thus, if it contains ancient fossils, it might indicate the presence of life either farther out in our own solar system, or perhaps from another system altogether.
NASA's 1996 announcement marked the first time since the mid-1960s that scientists had seriously considered the possibility of finding life-signs in a meteorite. In the mid-1960s, a team led by scientist Bartholomew Nagy made a similar announcement. However, other scientists later concluded that Nagy's findings probably resulted from a sample contaminated by earth-based organisms.
Hoover now says that Nagy's work might have been unfairly rejected.
In his paper, Hoover described what he termed "a population of indigenous microfossils" within the meteorite, shaped like mushrooms, stalks or filaments. These objects appear to resemble some types of bacteria, but so far they cannot be identified as belonging to any microbial group known on earth.
"We are doing additional work to determine what (the structures) are... and to determine if we can obtain carbon isotope measurements to give an idea of whether they are terrestrial or extraterrestrial in nature," Hoover said.
Hoover also pointed out that a team of scientists from Russia had independently studied other samples of the Murchison meteorite and had reported earlier this year that they too had found tell-tale signs of possible microbial life.
Original file name: CNI - NASA.Life Evidence
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