Opal as a Sign of Life

Interesting. Martian gems could point to evidence of life

“Professor Martin Lee, of the University’s School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, is lead author of the research paper. He said: ‘The slice of Nakhla that we have is small, and the amount of fire opal we’ve found in it is even smaller, but our discovery of opal is significant for a couple of reasons.

‘Firstly, it definitively confirms findings from NASA’s imaging and exploration of the Martian surface which appeared to show deposits of opal. This is the first time that a piece of Mars here on Earth has been shown to contain opal.

‘Secondly, we know that on Earth opals like these are often formed in and around hot springs. Microbial life thrives in these conditions, and opal can trap and preserve these microbes for millions of years. If Martian microbes existed, it’s possible they too may be preserved in  deposits on the surface of Mars.

‘Closer study of Martian opals by future missions to Mars could well help us learn more about the planet’s past and whether it once held life.”

“opal can trap and preserve these microbes for millions of years.”

Kind of like amber. Hmm.

I had the pleasure, and surreal experience, once, to be served a meal by Cal Poly Professor Raul Cano, whose work with prehistoric amber was an impetus for the movie Jurassic Park. As some of you may know, he developed a brew, a beer, made from 45,000,000 year old yeast he’d been successful in reviving. Fossil Fuels Brewing Co. was the result. So apparently he had this small San Luis Obispo restaurant  on the side (though I think it’s been sold since). Anyway, we’d been out hiking and went to the place to eat. When I saw him I recognized him from an article I’d read. As I recall, there were very few people in the establishment at the time. I of course ordered a pint of his Eocene aged concoction, and he brought it over. He was quite pleasant, and the brew was great!

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