The discovery of opals in a meteorite from Mars may be proof of life on the red planet.
According to NBC, a team of researchers from the University of Glasgow and the Natural History Museum in London have uncovered traces of opal-A or ‘fire opal’ in the Nakhla meteorite, which fell from Mars and landed on earth early last century.
Publishing their findings in the journal of Meteoritics & Planetary Science, the scientists used electron and x-ray imaging and spectroscopy to uncover the 1.7 gram section of opal-A, which was created by the interaction of Martian water with silica within the meteorite.
Chief researcher, professor martin Lee, described the discovery as significant.
“The slice of Nakhla that we have is small, and the amount of fire opal we’ve found in it is even smaller, but our discovery of opal is significant for a couple of reasons,” Lee said in a statement.
“Firstly, it definitively confirms findings from NASA’s imaging and exploration of the Martian surface which appeared to show deposits of opal. This is the first time that a piece of Mars here on Earth has been shown to contain opal.
“Secondly, we know that on Earth opals like these are often formed in and around hot springs. Microbial life thrives in these conditions, and opal can trap and preserve these microbes for millions of years. If Martian microbes existed, it’s possible they too may be preserved in opal deposits on the surface of Mars.”
The slice of opal is reportedly orange, yellow, and red in colouration.