In December of 1984, ANSMET scientists, on the prowl for meteorites, found yet another meteorite in the Allen Hills area of Antarctica. This rock was designated ALH84001.
Researchers studying ALH84001 found that the rock originated on Mars. They further claim that they found both structural, mineral, and chemical lines of evidence that the rock contains evidence of past life in the form of nanofossils. As Saint Sagan once said “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. I think that a claim of fossil bugs on a rock from Mars qualify as “extraordinary”! This claim was immediately and rightly assailed by much of the scientific community. This is how science should work. Alternate mechanisms were proposed and demonstrated in laboratory conditions for all of the potential evidence of life present in ALH84001. No set of experiments however, has produced all of the evidence occurring together and some of the experiments produced the features only under conditions not possible when the features were produced on the Allen Hills meteorite. In my mind, the jury is still out.
The rock is just over 4 billion years old and comes from a time when oceans were present on Mars. While the rock is igneous, there is evidence that it was also subjected to hydrothermal activity (hot springs). Terrestrial hot springs seem to nearly always bring subterranean organisms to the surface. These organisms are extremophile archaea, bacteria-like creatures. These are the most abundant organisms on the planet and can live deep in the crust. How did they get here? Did they develop and evolve here? If so, why not everywhere that the conditions for life exist? I don’t know that I believe that life is found in every thermal spring in the universe but I sure want to!
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