The NASA Spirit rover has found silica on Mars, and further investigation into these material deposits has some wondering whether this discovery may be a potential sign of alien life. The opaline silica residues form frequently into the shape of cauliflower heads, and might offer hints regarding the presence of “ancient microbes” on Mars. According to News Max this Thursday, February 4, 2016, more research will need to be conducted to verify whether these silica deposits may in fact be clues to extraterrestrial existence, but they are a step in an interesting direction of life outside of Earth.
For decades now, people have been wondering about life on Mars. Do aliens exist? Could NASA rovers like Spirit be a veritable means of discovering them? Might clues to their presence on the Red Planet be within our grasp? No concrete answers have been made quite yet, but one of the more recent examinations into this exciting possibility has been conducted by a pair of researchers at Arizona State University.
Jack Farmer and Steven Ruff have revealed in a new report that there are some interesting similarities between the El Tatio region of a Chilean desert, the Atacama Desert, and the surface of planet Mars. One noticeable parallel is the presence of a certain material, opaline silica. These compositions could be that valuable hint scientists have been searching for in past years.
According to DB Techno News this week, these Mars “rocks”—which may in fact be fossil imprints of long-past microbes—may tell us much more than just information regarding possible organisms or alien life. In fact, says the source, they could “lead to the biggest discovery in the history of space travel.” Unfortunately, we should not be feeling too thrilled about the situation quite yet, as there are still some serious obstacles to overcome.
“I don’t think there is any way around using modern Earth analogs to test where Martian microbes may be found,” said Kurt Konhauser, the editor-in-chief of the journal Geobiology, in a statement to the Smithsonian. It seems more time and research may be needed on such a front.
Nonetheless, it appears the discoveries of NASA rovers like Spirit are unceasing. The opaline silica material deposits, in the shape of heads of cauliflower, were brought to the study forefront thanks to the Spirit’s findings in the Gusev crater on Mars. The researchers shared their ideas on a possible link to life during the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco late last year.
As shared via News Max and the abstract of the researchers’ academic paper on the silica phenomenon: “… New observations of silica deposits produced in small discharge channels from hot springs and geysers in a high elevation geothermal field known as El Tatio in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile reveal remarkably similar features, including infrared spectral characteristics and what we describe here as micro-digitate silica structures … Our ongoing field and lab studies are intended provide a robust assessment of the biogenicity of the micro-digitate silica structures and other aspects of El Tatio silica sinter deposits and test their viability as direct analogs to similar features found among the Home Plate silica deposits on Mars.”
More examination into the similarities between this surface structure on Mars and the Atacama Desert is being explored. It is speculated that despite the Earthen desert region having oxygen, the extremely arid environment might very well be like Mars back when it had warmer overall temperatures. For the most part, locating silica has been a shock to scientists and other researchers at NASA.
“These high-silica compositions are a puzzle,” wrote Albert Yen, a Curiosity science team member at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, at the official NASA website a couple of months ago. “You can boost the concentration of silica either by leaching away other ingredients while leaving the silica behind, or by bringing in silica from somewhere else … Either of those processes involve water. If we can determine which happened, we’ll learn more about other conditions in those ancient wet environments.” What do you think? Might confirmation of alien life be closer than we imagine?