Mysterious tube-like features on Mars could be trace fossils
While minerals could be the sole source of the unusual features, scientists are not ruling out a biological origin.

Delila James | Apr 19, 2018

NASA's Curiosity rover has spotted tiny, tube-like structures on Mars that some say could be trace fossils.

While minerals could be the sole source of the unusual features, scientists are not ruling out a biological origin.

"They look remarkably similar to Ordovician trace fossils I have studied and photographed here on Earth," Barry DiGregorio, a research fellow for the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology in the UK and author of two books about Mars, told Inside Outer Space, as reported by Space.com. "If not trace fossils, what other geological explanations will NASA come up with?"

The features are very tiny only a millimeter or two in width and a mere 5 millimeters long. When first spotted in black and white imagery, Curiosity's science team found the figures interesting enough to steer the rover back to study them further, using the Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI a color camera mounted on its arm.

For now, whether geological or biological processes explain the origin of these mysterious features on the Red Planet remains an open question.

Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told Space.com that the team is not ruling out the trace fossil explanation, but said "we certainly won't jump to that as our first interpretation."

The odd shapes could be "crystal molds," which form when crystals in rock are dissolved away, Vasavada noted, adding that is just one of several possibilities.

"If we see more of them then we begin to say that this is an important process that's going on at Vera Rubin Ridge," he said.

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