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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

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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  • Kabir Chaudhary

    Why are we always talking about Mars? Why don’t we show interest towards other planets?

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NASA’s Curiosity Rover Tests New Drill Method On Mars

It now offers Curiosity a vital sense of touch, preventing the drill bit from drifting sideways too much and getting stuck in a rock

This year NASA discovered few earth like planets. Wikimedia Commons
This year NASA discovered few earth like planets. Wikimedia Commons
  • NASA’s Rover conducted new drill methods on Mars
  • This can help NASA get samples from Mars
  • After this, they can start a more comprehensive study of the planet

NASA’s Curiosity rover has conducted a new drill method on Mars, marking the first operation of the rover’s drill since a motor problem began acting up more than a year ago.

ISS is aIt is the first ever drilling attempt on Mars. Wikimedia Commons permanent base for astronauts stationed in the outer sky. Wikimedia Commons
It is the first ever drilling attempt on Mars. Wikimedia Commons

This early test produced a hole about a one-centimetre deep at a target called Lake Orcadie — not enough for a full scientific sample, but enough to validate that the new method works mechanically, NASA said on Wednesday.

This was just the first in what will be a series of tests to determine how well the new drill method can collect samples. If this drill had achieved sufficient depth to collect a sample, the team would have begun testing a new sample delivery process, ultimately delivering to instruments inside the rover.

Also Read: NASA’s Kepler Discovers Nearly 100 New Exoplanets

Curiosity has used its drill to collect samples 15 times since landing in 2012. Then, in December of 2016, a key part of the drill stopped working.

If the previous method was like a drill press, holding the drill bit steady as it extends into a surface, it is now more freehand. The rover is using its entire arm to push the drill forward, re-centring itself while taking measurements with a force sensor. That sensor was originally included to stop the rover’s arm if it received a high-force jolt, NASA said.

It now offers Curiosity a vital sense of touch, preventing the drill bit from drifting sideways too much and getting stuck in a rock.

This ice which was found can help scientists understand the climate history of Mars. IANS
This will help NASA study Mars more comprehensively. IANS

“We’re now drilling on Mars more like the way you do at home,” said Steven Lee, Deputy Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

“Humans are pretty good at re-centring the drill, almost without thinking about it. Programming Curiosity to do this by itself was challenging — especially when it wasn’t designed to do that,” Lee added. IANS