Early this month, researchers made an exciting announcement - the discovery of what they believe to be the oldest fossilized sign of life. But what does this finding have to do with the discovery of life on other planets?
The fossil is from a rare piece of earth's oceanic crust. This unique sample revealed micro-meter sized tubes. These tubes are believed to be the remnants of long-dead, iron-eating bacteria. It is surmised that, based on similar currently-living specimens, that they lived on the ocean's floor near hydrothermal vents. But how long-dead were these creatures? Well, it estimated that they were alive somewhere between 3.8 and 4.3 billion years ago.
This is important because it pushes the creation of life to just a few hundred thousand years of the planet's creation, according to the journal Nature.
So what does this have to do with push for finding life on other planets?
Well, scientists have surmised that Mars also had large pools of water at one time. In fact, there is some, albeit weaker, evidence that Mars also had oceans. Based on this theory that there was water on Mars at some point, it follows that, matched with a thicket atmosphere and all the chemicals needed to create life...that there was in fact, (microbial) life.
According to planetary scientist Jeffrey Johnson with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, "Unlike Earth, and even Venus, there are significant areas on Mars' ancient surface that are really well preserved and provide great places to search for past habitable environments and the bio-signatures they might contain,"
Thus, it could provide analog to Mars' timeline of life and increase interest in further investigation of life on Mars!
This photo is of Mars and is not directly related to the story. It is liscensed under Creative Commons 2.0, and is from Flickr User by Kevin Gill.