NASA Mars Exploration: Martian Life Clues Could Be In These Magnetic Rocks [Video]By Chris Brandt, UniversityHerald Reporter
NASA scientists who have been involved in the Mars exploration project have been relentlessly looking for clues about life on the Mars planet. Just recently, they say that they might finally find a clue which can be found in magnetic rocks.
For years, scientists have been trying to find clues of Martian life in organic molecules. However, scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said that they have found another method, one that will produce more successful results: collecting magnetite.
The idea of collecting magnetite from Mars makes sense said Soon Sam Kim of NASA's JPL because they are formed by terrestrial bacteria, just like here on Earth. These bacteria can easily adapt themselves to Earth's magnetic field and slowly thrive as they find favorable conditions here. More so, magnetite is only a mineral so there is a big possibility that it could have survived over a million of years.
Richard Miller, a physics from the University of Texas and has also been involved in looking for clues of life in Mars, said that looking for these magnetic rocks in Mars is an interesting idea.
He added that although Mars has no magnetic field now, research has suggested that the red planet had one in the past; thus, it is possible that these organisms could have evolved and is existing in Mars.
If indeed life has taken hold of Mars, these terrestrial microbes could have thrived since Mars is plenty of iron oxide, which gives the planet its red color. Also, magnetite is a byproduct of created by these bacteria when they use iron in their metabolism.
In order to collect these magnetic rocks from Mars, Kim has designed a new instrument that will scan these magnetic rocks. Unlike previous instruments, the new detector will not have to scan each particle under the microscope.
Kim said they have already tested the detector on the meteorite found in Antarctica. The team has found the presence of magnetite from the meteorite but they are not sure whether the magnetic signature they found that rock was biogenic or non-biogenic magnetite.