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1.3 Billion-Year-Old Martian Meteorite Contains Cell-Like Structure

Update Date: Oct 20, 2014 12:05 PM EDT
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Researchers have found a mysterious oval structure embedded deep within a famous Martian meteorite called Nakhla, according to a new study. 

The fragments of the Nakhla meteorite had fallen to Earth on June 28, 1911 near the village of El-Nakhla in Egypt, and its crystallization age dates back to 1.38 billion years ago. 

Researchers investigated the polished thin section prepared from the Nakhla sample # BM1911, 369 and found an unusual 'cell-like' oval structure with a concentric wall. 

"In many ways it resembled a fossilized biological cell from Earth but it was intriguing because it was undoubtedly from Mars," said Prof Ian Lyon of the University of Manchester, a team member and the senior author of the study. 

Researchers carried out a series of chemical and structural investigations and employed a wide range of imaging and analytical techniques. 

"There is strong textural and chemical evidence that the ovoid structure is indigenous to Nakhla and originated on Mars," the scientists wrote in the paper.

"The petrographic context of this highly elliptical ovoid structure within late-forming mesostasis glass, coupled with its relatively large size, distinct chemical composition, and complex microtextures, supports this idea and effectively rules out the possibility of an origin by contamination."

 "Our research found that it probably wasn't a cell but that it did once hold water - water that had been heated, probably as a result of an asteroid impact," professor Lyon added in the press release. 

The study has been published in the journal Astrobiology. 

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