Mars is, unless we strand Matt Damon there, a lifeless planet. The atmosphere is too thin, the soil too parched, the radiation too unforgiving, to host life. Or at least that’s what we’ve thought. But increasingly, we’re finding signs that there is, in fact, alien life out there, and the latest is, well, rocks.
True, there’s no shortage of rocks on Mars, but these are rocks we might have seen on Earth. Scientists at Arizona State University are arguing that strange, cauliflower-like opaline silica deposits found on Mars in 2008 by Opportunity closely resemble growths made by microbes found in Chilean geysers located in the Atacama desert. The Atacama is shockingly similar to Mars, so much so, in fact, that NASA is testing microbe-hunting rovers there.
This isn’t a slam-dunk; not even those proposing the theories argue that it is. The deposits could have formed in other ways, after all. And even if the rocks were formed by microbes, that doesn’t mean they’re still around for us to take a look at them. These little bugs might have left behind little cauliflower-shaped tombstones as their only mark on the Red Planet. Still, it’s yet another entry into the “alien life” column on Mars, and more evidence that we need to get a microbe enabled rover up there and poking around on its surface. Just, let’s keep the samples there, okay? The Zika virus is bad enough.