Mysterious fragments of DNA have been found in Chile's Atacama Desert that could make the remote area the perfect place to test whether there is life on Mars, according to researchers.
The desert is said to look a great deal like Mars, and lead researcher Armando Azua-Bustos, a microbiologist for the Center of Astrobiology in Madrid, told The Washington Post that organisms were found that were so unusual that in "half the cases, the databases could not clearly say what we had in our hands."
Out of the genetic fragments found, 9% were determined to be part of the "dark microbiome," as they belong to organisms that are unknown to science, noted a report published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.
The report said that the bacteria that was found was "so strange and different" that researchers could not determine if they matched anything that is known.
That means, Azua-Bustos said, that the desert would serve well for testing if there is or was life on Mars.
However, the same search that has been conducted through the Mars rovers couldn't detect such microbial signatures, so conclusive evidence of life on Mars could be difficult to determine unless actual soil samples are brought from the Red Planet back to earth for testing, according to Azua-Bustos and his researchers.
Meanwhile, NASA and the European Space Agency are on a mission, Mars Sample Return, to bring samples of Mars soil gathered by NASA's Perseverance rover back to Earth in the next decade to examine.
Astrobiologists have long been searching for evidence of life on Mars, which about 3 billion years ago had liquid water on its surface and a more Earthlike atmosphere. NASA’s 1976 Viking mission conducted experiments to detect life, and since then, the rovers Perseverance and Curiosity have found some traces of organic molecules, but "the question remains whether they are meteoritic, geologic, or biologic," said Amy Williams, a member of the Curiosity and Perseverance scientific teams and a planetary scientist at the University of Florida.
However, she said the newest report is important because it shows that it is difficult to preserve organic material in environments that are like Mars and that even with the latest instruments, it will be hard to detect.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.