Evidence of Life Found in Another Martian Meteorite!

Another Mars rock, the Los Angeles meteorite, has fossil evidence that suggests life once existed on Mars.


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Researchers using Raman Spectrographic equipment (like the setup above) have found

“disordered graphite ” and “metalloporphyrin ” in the Los Angeles Martian meteorite (diabasic shergottite).

The fact that these compounds have a biotic origin is not questioned. Although these two compounds have been dismissed as being terrestrial contaminants, it begs the question, “Where are all the other compounds that would accompany this type of terrestrial contamination?” Given the absence of additional evidence for recent terrestrial contamination, it is my contention that “disordered graphite and “metalloporphyrin” are actually fossil residue, having a biological origin which predates the impact that launched the host rock from the surface of planet Mars.

Researchers at NASA in Houston announced in two separate press releases, one in November 2009, and then two months later, in January 2010, that they have found convincing fossil evidence in three martian meteorites that life once existed on Mars. This evidence has confirmed the researchers earlier findings about the martian meteorite Allen Hills 84001 from over a decade ago. The other two martian meteorites are Nakhla, which fell in Egypt in 1911 and since has been in a British collection, and an Antarctic find by the Japanese called Yamato 000593 (another nakhlite). Designated Yamato 593, it contains signs of fossil life similar to that seen in AH84001 and Nakhla meteorites. Both the Nakhla and Yamato life forms date to only about 1.4 billion years old, if it can be proved more definitively.

NASA presented their findings in greater depth before the American Geophysical Union Meeting (January 2010) in San Francisco. At the meeting, John McKay, the principal investigator for the original findings regarding AH84001 presented in 1996, declared that before the end of 2010 “definitive proof” will be announced. He stated that recent advancements in instrumentation have resulted in breakthroughs in our ability to identify “biomorphs”. The “biomorph” features discovered in the Yamato 593 meteorite look identical to those found inside the Allen Hills and Nakhla meteorites, according to McKay.

Because of these recent findings, there has been a shift in the “Mars life strategy”: NASA’s original strategy was to “follow the water”, then the strategy shifted to “follow the carbon.” The strategy now, however, simply reads “find direct evidence for seeking out life”. That role will first fall to the Mars Science Laboratory rover undergoing final assembly for launch in September 2011.

It is my purpose in this article to bring attention to another Mars rock meteorite, the Los Angeles meteorite (a diabasic shergottite), and to suggest that it, too, should be re-examined based upon findings that were originally reported nearly ten years ago. Given the “recent advancements in instrumentation”, this re-examination of the Los Angeles martian meteorite is warranted. In fact, before the next NASA science platform is launched to Mars in order to “search for any and all signs of life”, it would be prudent to re-examine as many martian meteorites as is possible.


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Typical arrangement of Carbon molecules when in the form of Graphite

About 10 years ago there was an examination of the Los Angeles shergottite (LA) by a group of researchers, led by Alian Wang, utilizing state-of-the-art (for that time) Raman spectroscopic instruments. The sample of LA that was used in this survey was obtained from UCLA. This means that the sample came from the type specimen that this author submitted to UCLA in 1999. Having personally cut this type specimen on my own rock-saw, I can attest to the fact that this was far from a “clean room” operation.

The results of this “survey” were published in 2001 under the title:

Preliminary Raman spectroscopic survey on a martian meteorite – Los Angeles in Lunar and Planetary Science XXXII (2001) – 1427.pdf

Although the title called this a “Preliminary survey”, it was still a very thorough examination that identified all of the mineral constituents, as well as, contaminants, presumably all terrestrial. What I found intriguing was the emphasis placed on describing two of these “contaminants”:

1) the disordered graphite – which was always associated with the masses of secondary hematite.

and

2) the metalloporphyrin – which were individual grains that looked like minute, ruby-colored crystals.

Since these compounds are known to have biologic origins, it is understandable that some space in the paper be taken to describe their occurrence. But their prominence in the abstract, particularly the images of the ruby-colored metalloporphyrin grains, has led me to think that the significance of their presence in this meteorite was being intentionally understated, in order to allow the reader to draw their own conclusion.

In order for me to draw my own conclusion, I need answers to certain questions.

For instance, if the Raman spectroscope was so sensitive as to detect and properly identify minute masses of carbon compounds that are, at best, ephemeral vestiges of once living organisms, then why didn’t the spectroscope detect a long list of hydrocarbon compounds, such as proteins, lipids, cell-walls, etc., in other words, the remains of the purported terrestrial organisms that “produced these two contaminants”?

How long does it take to form disordered graphite from once living organisms? Among all of the Martian meteorites, the Los Angeles stones are one of the freshest, having one of the lowest terrestrial residence times (~5k-9k years). Is this long enough for a terrestrial organism to decompose into “disordered graphite”?

In the absence of other hydrocarbons, wouldn’t the sole-presence of minute, crystalline grains of metalloporphyrin be exactly the kind of vestigial substance from once living organisms that could survive in the vacuum of space over long geologic time?

For now, until a re-examination of the Los Angeles meteorite with the newly advanced instrumentation can prove otherwise, I can only conclude that LA is too fresh, too pristine (lacks a wide variety of contaminants from terrestrial organisms) and too rich in the exact carbon compounds that you would expect to survive the transit through space from Mars to Earth.


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Ordered Graphite – typical “narrow” response with Raman spectrograph

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Disordered Graphite – typical “wide” response with Raman spectrograph

Over the intervening decade since the above “preliminary survey” was published, NASA has never contacted me (the main mass holder of Los Angeles) for additional samples for a more thorough examination with the advanced analytical instrumentation they have developed. I find this curious, because their oft-stated strategy was to “Follow the Carbon”! In fact, as recently as January 2010 at the AGU Meeting in San Francisco, John McKay was quick to congratulate themselves (NASA) for having followed through on this strategy, because when it came to “following the carbon”, there was (and I quote) “a lot of carbon in Nakhla!”

But in my view, NASA has fallen well short of their goal to follow the carbon to Mars, when they failed to follow the carbon trail just this short distance to Los Angeles.

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Diabasic Shergottite – Available for Re-examination


REFERENCES:

Preliminary Raman spectroscopic survey on a martian meteorite – Los Angeles in Lunar and Planetary Science XXXII (2001) – 1427.pdf –
by Alian Wang, Karla E. Kuebler, John Freeman, Bradley L. Jolliff, Dept. Earth & Planetary Sciences, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 63130 (alianw@levee.wustl.edu)

Google docs – Preliminary Raman spectroscopic survey on a martian meteorite – Los Angeles,
by Alian Wang, Karla E. Kuebler, John Freeman, Bradley L. Jolliff, Dept. Earth & Planetary Sciences, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 63130 (alianw@levee.wustl.edu)

(If the previous Reference has expired, try this more permanent link.)


Nakhla - mars rock
Metalloporphyrin
: Definition from Answers.com

metalloporphyrin ( m?’talo’pörf?r?n ) ( biochemistry ) A compound, such as heme, consisting of a porphyrin combined with a metal such as iron, copper…


disordered graphite

Disordered graphite
– Graphite surface disorder detection using in situ Raman microscopy – BY Laurence J. Hardwick, Hilmi Buqa and Petr Novák

in: Solid State Ionics – Volume 177, Issues 26-32, 31 October 2006, Pages 2801-2806

Fig. 4. In situ Raman spectra series of disordered graphite of the four points from open circuit potential (3000 mV) to 550 mV (top) and from 500 mV to 220 mV (bottom). Spectra are shifted arbitrarily up the intensity axis. The arrows on the left-hand side of each quad indicate the direction of the scan.

Alian Wang – Mission to Mars – Alian also uses Raman spectroscopy for another passion of hers: the study of Martian meteorites… …

Images of trace fossils in Martian meteorites: – NASA Johnson Space Center website – New Study Adds to Finding of Ancient Life Signs in Mars Meteorite – 12.08.09


Nakhla - mars rockNakhla - mars rockYamato 593 - mars rock (nakhlite)
SPACEFLIGHT NOW

– Three Martian meteorites triple evidence for Mars life – BY CRAIG COVAULT

Posted: January 9, 2010

SPACEFLIGHT NOW – Martian meteorite surrenders new secrets of possible life – BY CRAIG COVAULT

Posted: November 24, 2009

Technology Review – Delta V – Wednesday, December 02, 2009 – Fresh Evidence of Ancient Life on Mars?

A new study says it’s the best explanation for materials found in a meteorite, but not everyone agrees.

Life on Mars NewsWire: Recent Articles – News that scientists had found evidence of life in a Mars meterorite had leaked out, …

Life on Mars: New Evidence from Martian Meteorites – in Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7441, 744102

In summary, the original hypothesis that features in ALH84001 may be the result of early microbial life on
Mars remains robust and is further strengthened by the presence of abundant biomorphs in other Martian
meteorites. These biomorphs, while not completely definitive for microbial life, are clearly associated with
Martian aqueous alteration (crack-filling iddingsite) and are nearly identical to terrestrial biomorphs known to
be formed by microbial activity. New Martian data since our original paper have significantly supported the
habitability of Mars and the possibility of life there. These data include the presence of an early magnetic
dynamo detected by by the discovery of strongly magnetized crustal rocks, the presence of abundant early
surface water and recent near-surface water, the presence of early clay minerals and carbonates, and the
presence of methane plumes in the atmosphere which may have a biological origin. Combining all of the new
data from the Mars missions with our new data on biomorphs, the case for life on Mars appears to be much
stronger.


My previous articles can be found *HERE*

For for more information, please contact me by email:

Bolide*chaser

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About the Author

Robert Verish
Bob is a retired aerospace engineer living in Southern California, and has been recovering meteorites from the Southwest U.S. Deserts since 1995.
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