A team of researchers has reportedly investigated a meteorite from Mars using neutron and X-ray tomography, revealing that the meteorite had limited exposure to water, which according to the scients makes the chances of life exing at that specific time and place unlikely. This technology will also likely be used NASA when they examine samples from the red planet in 2030.
NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars in February 2021. After collecting various samples from the planet, it will leave them there for a future mission to collect and retrieve them to Earth. But getting these samples back to earth is a difficult task that would require autonomously launching a rocket full of samples from the surface of Mars to a spacecraft orbiting Mars so that it can bring the samples back.
But, in the meanwhile, material from Mars is already being studied right here on Earth: using meteorites which originated from the red planet. An international research team led Lund University has studied a meteorite that is approximately 1.3 billion years old using advanced scanning techniques.
The researchers have published their findings in a research article titled, “The scale of a martian hydrothermal system explored using combined neutron and x-ray tomography,” published in the journal Science Advances.
To find out whether there were any major hydrothermal systems where the meteorite was on Mars, the researchers used neutron and X-ray tomography. X-ray tomography is commonly used to examine objects without damaging them and neutron tomography was used because neutrons are sensitive to hydrogen.
If the meteorite contains hydrogen, this would make it possible to study it in three dimensions to see where the hydrogen is located. Hydrogen is of interest in this case because it is a constituent of water, which is a prerequisite for life to ex as we know it. The research’s results show that only a small part of the sample seems to have reacted with water, leading the researchers to the conclusion that there probably wasn’t a large hydrothermal system that affected the meteorite.
According to them, a more probable explanation is that the meteorite’s reaction with water happened when small accumulations of underground ice melted during a meteorite that happened about 630 million years ago. But this does not rule out the possibility that there could have been life at other times and other places on Mars.