Scientist Sees Possible Signs Of Ancient Life On Mars In Rover Photos
What struck me is the creeping nature of discovering (the possibility turning into fact) that we have evidence of microbial life on Mars in the past eons. There was a famous ‘false positive’ during the Viking Lander era, the continuous discovery of spikes of methane (often related to microbial action on Earth) and various formations of mineral formation and deposit that, on Earth, occur in the presence of warm water. Yet rigorous science always demands that an observation is repeatable and other reasonable explanations have been ruled out.
That is obviously harder to do in the setting of studying these things on Mars. The rate of failure of probes to the Red Planet is high. The current advanced rover, Opportunity, took a impressive feat of engineering and program management to land a golf cart sized machine on the surface.
So, when a scientist says that a rock formation on Mars resembles the same pattern of fossils back on Earth, what references can we go to to understand how this more than likely billion year old formation near Opportunity is, in fact, an artifact produced by ancient life, the first to be discovered off our own planet?
We can go to Wiki to get a reference to a remarkable process that is probably 3.9 billion years old and can still be seen working today. It’s called stromatolite formation. The pictures in Wiki show both ancient fossilized stroma and current ones forming in Australia.
“”Stromatolites or stromatoliths (/strɵˈmætoʊlaɪts/; from Greek στρώμα, strōma, mattress, bed, stratum, and λίθος, lithos, rock) are layered bio-chemical accretionary structures formed in shallow water by the trapping, binding and cementation of sedimentary grains by biofilms (microbial mats) of microorganisms, especially cyanobacteria. Stromatolites provide ancient records of life on Earth by fossil remains which might date from more than 3.5 billion years ago.””
The microbial mats mentioned are the same mechanism that Nora Noffke is proposing as the agent in creating the fossil presentation she detects in the Opportunity pictures.
If we can verify this as highly probable, we will have crossed the ‘life can only form on Earth’ threshold. As our science is busy looking for exoplanets in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ (most favorable orbits for the formation of earth like life in other solar systems), we get to confront the questions to our view of our place in the universe. What will the anti-Darwinists say, other than denial, in the face of reason, when some future astronaut/scientist looks into an electron microscope and declares that a formation on Mars was in fact created by microbes, perhaps a billion years ago?
For myself, if I am alive to hear and see that, it will be perhaps the most profound moment of my life.