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No. 101: Sep-Oct 1995

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Alh 84001: a message from mars or perhaps some other planet

ALH 84001 is a meteorite picked up in the Allan Hills of Antarctica a decade ago. Its composition and fused crust suggest an extraterrestrial -- origin probably Mars. Space scientists think ALH 84001 was blasted off the Martian surface by an impacting body 14-18 million years ago, based upon its exposure to cosmic rays while circling the sun, edging ever closer to earth.

The composition of ALH 84001 tells us curious facts about its place of origin. First, it contains carbonate minerals deposited by water. Second, the carbonate grains are banded, implying the parent rock formation was washed by water more than once. Third, and most interesting, chemists have found traces of molecules called PAHs, based on interconnected benzene rings. Three sources have been proposed for these PAHs:

Terrestrial contamination has always been a problem in analyzing meteorites, but great care has been taken in recent years, especially with the Antarctic lode of meteorites. In view of these precautions, it seems rather likely that somewhere "out there" life is brewing. (Anonymous; "A Chip Off the Old Mars," Sky and Telescope, 90:12, July 1995.)

Reference: See also: Incredible Life for the interesting history of past "discoveries of life in meteorites. This book is described here.

From Science Frontiers #101 Sep-Oct 1995. 1995-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987