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Sunday, January 8, 2006

Weak Minerals = Life?

Terrestrial Calcite
Terrestrial Calcite
Credit: Minerals in your World
Fabien Stalport and his team at the University of Paris studied the structure and melting points of various calcite (crystalline CaCO3) samples from earth. They found that the crystals formed inorganically had fewer defects and melted about 40C higher than those formed organically. The majority of the organic samples mass also tended to decompose to CO2 before the rest of the sample. Christopher Romanek, a geochemist at the University of Georgia, cautions that while implementations of these tests should not be hard to put on a rover, the interpretation of the results may be very difficult. "The older materials are, the more likely they've been overprinted by many, many processes. It can garble the signal so much it's hard to tell much about it at all." While there is little evidence for a lot of calcite on Mars, the results open up a new approach for the search for life. "Detecting evidence of life on Mars is probably going to be very difficult, so investigating every reasonable possible avenue makes sense," Steve Squyres said. The scientists in France are also going to try this method using different types of minerals.

Thanks to snelson5871 for posting the news.

(More info: New Scientist)

- posted by Jim @ 15:26 EST