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Martian meteorite reveals stuff of life

13 February 2006

A piece of a meteorite from Mars has been cracked open by scientists at NASA revealing channels and pores containing carbon material.

Nakhla meteorite © The Natural History Museum, London 2005

Nakhla meteorite © The Natural History Museum, London 2005

The Nakhla meteorite fragments, kept at the Natural History Museum in London, fell to Earth in Egypt in 1911.

Carbon is the element needed for all life on Earth so finding these carbon substances inside a meteorite gives clues about the possibility for life on Mars.

Dr Caroline Smith, meteorite expert at the Natural History Museum, said 'Opening the meteorite has produced some interesting results in identifying the presence of carbon in the middle of the specimen.'

Although life on Mars is one possibility the carbon may have been due to contamination while on Earth.

Dr Smith said, 'It is also possible the carbon could have formed on Mars through a non-biological process, such as during an impact event.'

What this find can tell us about life on other planets is not yet known. 'The research is still in its infancy,' said Dr Smith, 'and more evidence is needed. At this stage it is not possible to conclude that the appearance of carbon in this specimen is any proof of previous life forming on Mars.'

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