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Scientists think this ancient meteorite hints at life on Mars

A 1.3-billion-year-old Martian meteorite provides new evidence that there could be life on Mars.

A "cell-like" structure, found embedded in the Nakhla meteorite, once held water, researchers at the National Technical University of Athens and the University of Manchester found. The findings are published in the most recent issue of the journal Astrobiology.

The Nakhla meteorite hit Earth in 1911 in Egypt, but high-resolution imaging on the structure embedded in the rock has sparked a new wave of scientific interest. Though the structure may not technically be a cell, the fact that it once held water has scientists intrigued.

"In many ways it resembled a fossilized biological cell from Earth, but it was intriguing, because it was undoubtedly from Mars," Ian Lyon, a professor at the University of Manchester, said in a statement. "Our research found that it probably wasn't a cell but that it did once hold water, water that had been heated, probably as a result of an asteroid impact."

The meteorite has fueled speculation that there may be life on Mars — the fact that it once held water suggests that "Mars does provide all the conditions for life to have formed and evolved," according to Phys.org. If large asteroids hit Mars in the past, they could have produced hydrothermal fields capable of sustaining life. "Life as we know it, in the form of bacteria, for example, could be there, although we haven't found it yet," Lyon said in the statement. The researchers are now using new techniques to investigate other materials in the meteorite for further evidence of life.