Mars remains a fertile field for otherworldly discoveries. There is still a strong belief that the planet bears signs of Martian life that has been around for millions of years. However, explorers of the Red Planet looking for such signs of ancient life can be fooled by the fossil-like samples created by chemical processes.
These alerts open a new frontier of suspicion and skepticism. Is the planet really a bunch of nothing after all?
Rocks on Mars may contain several types of non-biological sediments that are similar to the types of fossils that would likely be found if the planet had ever supported life, according to one study.
The researchers say that separating these false fossils from what could be evidence of ancient life on Mars - which was temporarily habitable four billion years ago - is key to the success of current and future missions.
Mars may have fossil-like structures
astrobiology Edinburgh Universities and the Oxford review of evidence for all known processes that could have created life-like deposits in the rocks of Mars.
As shown, they have identified dozens of processes - with many likely undiscovered - that could produce structures that mimic simple microscopic life forms that may have existed on Mars.
Among the natural specimens that these processes can create are deposits resembling bacterial cells and carbon-based particles that appear to be the building blocks of all known life.
We have been deceived by life imitations in the past. On many occasions, things resembling fossil microbes have been described in ancient rocks on Earth and even in meteorites on Mars, but upon closer examination, they are found to have non-biological origins.
This article is a cautionary tale in which we call for further research on simulations of life in the context of Mars, to avoid falling into the same traps over and over again.
Julie Cosmides is Associate Professor of Geosciences at the University of Oxford.
According to the researchers, scientists will have to look closely at non-biological mineral deposits that are very similar to fossils, as in the case of the rover. determination from the United States, or Chang'e 5 from China.
At some point, a rover on Mars will almost certainly encounter something very similar to a fossil, so being able to tell them apart from structures and chemicals produced by chemical reactions is vital. For every type of fossil out there, there is at least one non-biological process that creates very similar things, so there is a real need to improve our understanding of how they formed.
Sean McMahon, an astrobiologist at the University of Edinburgh explained.
Robot eyes can be deceived by non-biological phenomena
Examples of these phenomena include physical processes associated with the disintegration and deposition of sedimentary layers, which can produce rocks with strong visual similarities to fossils.
Fossils can also be created in a "chemical garden," where the constant mixing of chemicals can produce structures that resemble biological ones. The same can happen with many minerals, which can create biological forms, which look like biological fossils.
According to the authors of the study published in the journal, Journal of the Geological SocietyThere must be many other processes that can produce pseudofossils, which is why scientists must be careful about what they discover on the Red Planet, which has been the focus of many investigations aimed at finding life.
Therefore, whenever evidence of ancient Martian life appears, it should always be called into question, as this evidence may have been "falsified" by non-biological processes. In this sense, was there life on Mars?
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