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Earth was like Mars? Experts find fossils in Greenland dating back to 3.7 Billion Years

Greenland stromatolites find can make Mars look even more promising than before as a potential abode for past life

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Allen Nutman (L) of the University of Woollongong and Vickie Bennet of the Australian National University hold a specimen of 3.7 billion-year-old fossils found in Greenland in Canberra, Australia, August 23, 2016. Picture taken August 23, 2016. Image source: Reuters
  • Stromatolites-fossilized communities of bacteria were supposedly found in south-west Greenland, these pre date fossils by 220 million years
  • There can be staggering implications of this find, one of them being a higher probability of life in Mars
  • The Earth was probably similar to Mars when stromalites started growing

September 1,2016– Fossils as defined in a dictionary are the remains or impression of a prehistoric plant or animal embedded in rock and preserved in petrified form. In simpler terms, fossils help us understand the existence of life that dates back to some billion years.

In recent news, the earliest fossil evidence of life on Earth has been found in rocks 3.7 billion years old in Greenland. This in way raises the chances of life on Mars aeons ago when both planets were similarly desolate, scientists said on Wednesday.

The experts found tiny humps, between one and 4 cm (0.4 and 1.6 inches) tall, in rocks at Isua in south-west Greenland that they said were fossilized groups of microbes similar to ones now found in seas from Bermuda to Australia.

If confirmed as fossilized communities of bacteria known as stromatolites – rather than a freak natural formation – the lumps would pre-date fossils found in Australia as the earliest evidence of life on Earth by 220 million years.

“This indicates the Earth was no longer some sort of hell 3.7 billion years ago,” lead author Allen Nutman, of the University of Wollongong, told Reuters of the findings that were published in the journal Nature.

“It was a place where life could flourish.”

Earth formed about 4.6 billion years ago and the relative sophistication of stromatolites indicated that life had evolved quickly after a bombardment by asteroids ended about 4 billion years ago.

“Stromatolites contain billions of bacteria … they’re making the equivalent of apartment complexes,” said Martin Van Kranendonk, a co-author at the University of New South Wales who identified the previously oldest fossils, dating from 3.48 billion years ago.

At the time stromatolites started growing in gooey masses on a forgotten seabed, the Earth was probably similar to Mars with liquid water at the surface, orbiting a sun that was 30 percent dimmer than today, the scientists said.

Those parallels could be a new spur to study whether Mars once had life, the authors said.

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“Suddenly, Mars may look even more promising than before as a potential abode for past life,” Abigail Allwood, of the California Institute of Technology, wrote in a commentary in Nature.

The Greenland find was made after a retreat of snow and ice exposed long-hidden rocks. Greenland’s government hopes that a thaw linked to global warming will have positive spin-offs, such as exposing more minerals.

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Nutman said the main controversy was likely to be that the fossils were in metamorphic rocks, reckoned to have formed under huge stress with temperatures up to 550 degrees Celsius (1,022°F) – usually too high to preserve any trace of life.

Still, Van Kranendonk told Reuters that dried-out biological material could sometimes survive such a baking, adding he was “absolutely convinced” by the Greenland fossils. (Reuters)

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NASA’s plan on getting Martian samples to Earth

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NASA brings Martian samples to Earth from Mars.
NASA brings Martian samples to Earth from Mars. IANS
  • NASA plans on getting Martian samples to Earth from Mars
  • To know if life existed anywhere other than on Earth

Washington, Dec 11: (IANS) NASA has revealed how it plans to bring back Martian samples to Earth for the first time with the help of its next rover mission to the Red Planet, Mars 2020.

After landing on Mars, a drill will capture rock cores, while a caching system with a miniature robotic arm will seal up these samples. Then, they will be deposited on the Martian surface for possible pickup by a future mission, NASA said.

“Whether life ever existed beyond Earth is one of the grand questions humans seek to answer,” said Ken Farley of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“What we learn from the samples collected during this mission has the potential to address whether we’re alone in the universe,” Farley said.

Mars 2020 relies heavily on the system designs and spare hardware previously created for Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover, which landed in 2012.

Despite its similarities to Mars Science Laboratory, the new mission has very different goals – it will seek signs of ancient life by studying the terrain that is now inhospitable, but once held flowing rivers and lakes, more than 3.5 billion years ago.

To achieve these new goals, the rover has a suite of cutting-edge science instruments.

It will seek out biosignatures on a microbial scale.

An X-ray spectrometer will target spots as small as a grain of table salt, while an ultraviolet laser will detect the “glow” from excited rings of carbon atoms.

A ground-penetrating radar will look under the surface of Mars, mapping layers of rock, water and ice up to 10 metres deep, depending on the material.

The rover is getting some upgraded Curiosity hardware, including colour cameras, a zoom lens and a laser that can vaporise rocks and soil to analyse their chemistry, NASA said.

The mission will also undertake a marathon sample hunt.

The rover team will try to drill at least 20 rock cores, and possibly as many as 30 or 40, for possible future return to Earth, NASA said.

Site selection has been another milestone for the mission. In February, the science community narrowed the list of potential landing sites from eight to three.

All three sites have rich geology and may potentially harbour signs of past microbial life. But a final landing site decision is still more than a year away.

“In the coming years, the 2020 science team will be weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each of these sites,” Farley said.

“It is by far the most important decision we have ahead of us,” Farley said.

The mission is set to launch in July/August 2020. (IANS)

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Researchers found a new Drug to Reduce Alcohol Addiction in Teenagers

The drug is (+)-Naltrexone can reduce the drinking habit in teenagers.

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A new drug can reduce Alcohol addiction in teenagers
A new drug can reduce Alcohol addiction in teenagers. Pixabay
  • Researchers have found a new drug that may eventually help to reduce alcohol addiction in adults who used to binge during their adolescent years.

A new drug found which can reduce Alcohol addiction in teenagers

“During our teen years, the brain is still in a relatively immature state. Binge drinking worsens this situation, as alcohol undermines the normal developmental processes that affect how our brain matures,” said lead author Jon Jacobsen, a Ph.D. student at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

“Therefore, when an adolescent who has been binge drinking becomes an adult, they’re often left with an immature brain, which assists in the development of alcohol dependence,” Jacobsen added.

For the study, published in the Journal Neuropharmacology, researchers observed that adolescent mice involved in binge drinking behavior developed an increased sensitivity to alcohol as adults and engaged in further binge drinking.

The researchers were able to prevent some of these detrimental behaviors observed in adulthood, by giving mice a drug that blocks a specific response from the immune system in the brain.

The drug is (+)-Naltrexone, known to block the immune receptor Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4).

“This drug effectively switched off the impulse in mice to binge drink. The mice were given this drug still sought out alcohol, but their level of drinking was greatly reduced,” says senior author Professor Mark Hutchinson, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics at the University of Adelaide.

“We’re excited by the finding that we can potentially block binge drinking in an adult after they have experienced such behavior during adolescence, by stopping the activation of the brain’s immune system. It’s the first time this has been shown and gives us hope that our work has implications for the eventual treatment of alcohol addiction in adults,” Hutchinson noted.(IANS)

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Mission Mars: Red Planet Mars possess ‘Ideal Conditions’ to create Oxygen from Natural Carbon Dioxide, says Study

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Mars
A study has found Mars to attain near ideal conditions for dynamically creating oxygen. Pixabay.

London, Oct 23: A study has found Mars to attain near ideal conditions for dynamically creating oxygen from atmospheric carbon dioxide with the use of plasma technology.

As stated by researchers from the University of Porto in Portugal and Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, Mars is already comprised of 96 per cent CO2 (carbon dioxide) in its atmosphere.

The PTI reported the research published in the journal Plasma Sources Science and Technology depicting the pressure and temperature ranges in the Martian atmosphere that sustains non-thermal plasma useful for effective production of oxygen.

Vaso Guerra, a researcher from the University of Lisbon in Portugal put forth his statement about their next significant steps of sending a manned mission to Mars for exploration of space. They are planning to create a substantial change by creating a breathable environment on Mars.

Healthy
Mars has a low atmospheric temperature enhancing the production of CO2. Wikimedia.

Plasma reforming of CO2 on Earth is an advancing research study, stimulated by the problems of change in climate and production of solar fuels. Plasmas at low temperature are one of the best media for CO2 deformation, where the molecule splits into oxygen and carbon monoxide combined with direct electron impact, and transfer of electron into vibrational energy.

Mars has superficial conditions for In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) through the plasma.

The cold atmosphere may stimulate high vibrational effect for producing oxygen than that achievable on Earth. The low atmospheric temperature on Mars will also enable the reaction to be slowly giving the maximum amount of time for separation of molecules.

The plasma technology decomposition method aims to offer a two output for a manned mission towards Mars. The technique would provide a stable supply of oxygen and as a source of fuel that can be used as a propellant mixture in rocket vehicles. This approach by ISRU could help in simplifying the logistics involved in space exploration by increasing self-sufficiency, decrease the risks to the crew, and reduction in expenditure for carrying out the mission.

-Prepared by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram. Twitter @tweet_bhavana