A latest report, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, has suggested that the structures which were earlier thought to be fossils or may be mineral deposits can save both time and resources for future Mars missions.
The research showed that the microscopic tubes and filaments, which resemble the remains of tiny creatures, might have been formed through chemical reactions involving iron-rich minerals. A previous study had stated that structures were among the oldest fossils on Earth.
Experts believe that this recent finding can help in the search for extraterrestrial life during future Mars missions. The new study can also make it easier for the researchers to distinguish between fossils and non-biological structures.
Aid in future Mars missions
Astrobiologist Sean McMahon, a scientist from the University of Edinburgh, made this discovery. Dr. McMahon, who is working on techniques to seek evidence of life on Mars, created tiny formations which look almost similar to the shape and chemical composition of those iron-rich structures commonly found in Mars-like rocks on Earth. Some of those rocks are believed to be almost four billion years old.
Phys.org reported that Dr. McMahon used the process of chemical gardening and mixed iron-rich particles with alkaline liquids, containing carbonate or silicate, to create those complex structures.
Chemical gardening is believed to take place naturally when the chemicals exist in large numbers or amounts. The process can occur in "hydrothermal vents on a seabed and when deep groundwater circulates through pores and fractures in rocks".
According to Dr. McMahon's findings, only the structure is not enough to confirm whether those microscopic life-like formations are fossils. He noted that some more research will be required to comment about those formations.
He added: "Chemical reactions like these have been studied for hundreds of years but they had not previously been shown to mimic these tiny iron-rich structures inside rocks. These results call for a re-examination of many ancient real-world examples to see if they are more likely to be fossils or non-biological mineral deposits."