Scientists announced this week that they found the oldest fossilized fragments, a finding that may help us with the search of life in the universe.
They analysed rock fragments from the primordial crust of Earth and found tiny tubes and filaments that are believed to be the last vestiges of iron-eating bacteries that lived between 3,8-4,3 billions years ago. This bacteria is believed to have lived in hydrothermal vents, based on the fossils of current day iron eating bacterias.
These findings push the date of life beginning back about a few hundred thousand years. During this time Earth wasn’t the only planet that could support life.
Researchers have collected a massive amount of evidence that Mars had an extensive amount of water in its past. The Red Planet might’ve had oceans covering its surface and a thick atmosphere allowing the development of microbial life.
“Unlike Earth, and even Venus, there are significant areas on Mars’ ancient surface that are really well preserved and provide great places to search for past habitable environments and the bio-signatures they might contain,” said Jeffrey Johnson, planetary scientist of the Johns Hopkins University.
If those new findings hold up to the examination of micropaleontologists, “then it provides an analog for sedimentary systems on Mars where we see silica and iron oxide,” said geologist John Grotzinger.
The former lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Curiosity mission, Grotzinger observed the same conditions Murray formation. It was a geologic layer made from mud lakebeds.
“This looks good for Mars,” Grotzinger said.
After scientists founding this concrete data of microbes living in hydrothermal vents, the prospects of life on planets with oceans beneath miles thick ices.
Europa and Enceladus, the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, have salty oceans in contact with rocky cores – the same conditions that gave birth to life on our planet.
“Given this new evidence, ancient submarine-hydrothermal vent systems should be viewed as potential sites for the origins of life on Earth, and thus primary targets in the search for extraterrestrial life,” doctoral student Matthew Dodd’s team wrote in their Nature article.
While we don’t know if the life beyond our planet is the same, its still a starting point.
“We know how to turn life on Earth into a testable hypothesis,” said Shawn Domagal-Goldman, an astrobiologist at NASA, in one of their planetary meetings.
“The best-known alien biosphere for which we have data is Archean Earth, the ancient Earth,” Domagal-Goldman added. “We now can start to understand how we would look for the signs of life that would have been present on Archean Earth, when there was no oxygen in the atmosphere.”