NASA believes Alentejo could be birthplace of life on earth

Cabeço de Vide, parcial view

Working in collaboration with Portuguese CEPGIST researchers, NASA’s investigators are analysing the geological and thermal conditions in the small village of Cabeço de Vide (Fronteira), whose environment was found to have characteristics that are identical to those from a region in the USA and on Mars.

In 2011 Cabeço de Vide had just over 1,000 inhabitants.

Speaking to Boas Notícias, José Manuel Marques, coordinator of CEPGIST (Superior Technical Institute Centre for Petrology and Geochemistry), said that data gathered over recent years has allowed for a connection to be established between the rocks of Cabeço de Vide, rocks from a northern American thermal zone and sediment from soil from Mars.

Mr. Marques, who has extensively studied waters in Cabeço de Vide, said that thanks to the latest studies scientists now know that “some Martian rocks have hydro-geological characteristics that are identical to those found in rocks and waters in Cabeço de Vide and those from The Cedars, a thermal area in the USA.”

Many of these studies were based on findings from tests carried out on dozens of meteorites which originated from Mars – the last of which fell in Morocco in July 2011 – and which have been exhaustively analysed.

Information gathered from the meteorites has been compared to data obtained from the probes that have been on Mars and will now be rounded off with work carried out by the robot ‘Curiosity’, which is currently undertaking a two-year information-gathering mission on the planet Mars.

Rocks from Cabeço de Vide give local waters a particular composure and smell.

Because of the rocks Cabeço de Vide’s waters have a pH of 11.5, which is a unique level in Europe and comparable only to waters that run down an American mountain and to evidence from waters detected by scientists on Mars.

Based on this information, American astrophysicist Steve Vance, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), launched a collaborative project with CEPGIST researchers to compare and analyse elements from these three types of rock and their respective waters, which the researchers hope will be the key to unlocking the mystery of the origins of life on earth and on other planets.

Regarding the existence of a possible bacteria that is common to elements found in the Alentejo, the USA and on Mars, news that has been announced by national media, José Marques explained that while it has not yet been confirmed he believes the suspicions will be proven true through the work being carried out by Curiosity as NASA has proved there is running water on Mars. It is also thought water will be found below the planet’s surface.

The collaboration between CEPGIST and NASA’s JPL came about after a study by José Manuel Marques was published in an international magazine, prompting Steve Vance to invite the Portuguese researcher to give a speech at NASA, in September 2011, about the environment surrounding the Spring Waters of Cabeço de Vide and their possible relation to astrobiology.

Even though the investigation is only half way through, the researchers believe “this type of geology is perfect for creating the conditions necessary to develop life on earth and on Mars and also on Jupiter’s moon Europa”, and could have lead to the appearance of microorganisms, which later transformed into more complex life forms.