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Do you think there might be life on other planets?

Recently, there has been a great deal of interest in the idea that we might not be alone in the Universe. This isn't really surprising when you consider all the excitement of the Mars Pathfinder Mission and the fact that some of the most successful movies in the last year have featured aliens in lead roles (Contact, Men in Black, Independence Day). Much of this renewed interest is also due to last year's discovery of a meteorite from the planet Mars.

Scientists say that 16 million years ago, a giant asteroid crashed into the planet Mars. The impact was so great that chunks of rock were thrown from the Martian surface into outer space. One of these rocks later fell to Earth as a meteorite and was found last year in Antarctica. Meteorites are simply rocks which fall to Earth from outer space. As these rocks pass through Earth's atmosphere, they often catch fire and can be seen at nighttime as "shooting stars".

This particular meteorite, named ALH 84001, is special because it contains structures and compounds that resemble bacteria we have on Earth. Does this mean there once was (or, could still be) life on Mars? We don't really know the answer yet, but you can be sure there are many scientists searching for more clues!

Submitted by Bianca (Canada)
Submitted by Erica (Alabama, USA)
Submitted by Billy (Iowa, USA)
Submitted by Amanda (Pennsylvania, USA)
(September 2, 1997)

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA