Friday, 11 May 2012

Carbon structures found in Tissint meteorite from Mars

Part of the newly-arrived Tissint meteorite is currently being studied by the Cardiff group led by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe with doctoral student Jamie Wallis. The preliminary study reporting carbon structures in the meteorite is published in the current issue of the Journal of Cosmology.

Several carbon/oxygen-rich 10-20m particles have been found within the meteorite, embedded in the porous rocky matrix. The egg-shaped globule pictured shows cracking of the gold coating used for electron microscopy (SEM) due to heating by the electron beam. The working presumption is that these carbonaceous particles were accumulated among largely mineral dust by martian winds, potentially remnants of polysaccharide shells surrounding algal type cells.

The Tissint meteorite was recovered from the Moroccan desert in many pieces soon after it impacted last July.  It belongs to the type of meteorites originating from Mars classed as olivine-phyric shergottites.  The new finding supports David McKay's case for 'biomorphs' as traces of micro-life (including putative fossils) in certain other martian meteorites.