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22-Aug-2003

Contact: Science Press Package
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American Association for the Advancement of Science

A life-friendly Mars?



Martian dust contains small amounts of carbonate minerals, suggesting that life-supporting conditions may have existed there in the distant past, researchers say. Image courtesy of NASA.
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

People have always wondered if life ever evolved in Outer Space, and a new study of minerals on Mars hints that liquid water could once be found there. If such Earth-like conditions existed, then life may also have evolved on the Red Planet.

Joshua Bandfield and colleagues at Arizona State University collected data from the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft to determine how surface particles on Mars reflect and absorb light. Then, they compared this behavior with that of various Earth minerals. They found a match only between the Red Planet dust and a magnesium-rich carbonate mineral.

Although some meteorites from Mars contain carbonates, no one had been able to detect the material on the Martian surface before now. The study appears in the 22 August 2003 issue of the journal Science.

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