In Atacama Desert, a cauliflower like silica are recently found and studied by scientists and are believed to be produced microbes. Same cauliflower shaped structures are also found in the by the Spirit rover on 2007 and thought to be common features until the studies in the Chelean desert intrigues scientists to look back on this Martian feature found in Gusev crater.

These “cauliflower-like” features are made from Opaline silica sprouting in the Martian surface. Steven Ruff and Jack Farmer, both of Arizona State University in Tempe said based on their studies on the same features found in Atacama Desert, microbes could play an important role in the formation of this silica. If these theories are proved to be true, this would increase the possibility that in the past Mars was harboring life.

Atacama Desert in Chile is dubbed as Mars when it’s a little warmer and wetter. This comparison makes Atacama as the only place on Earth to be as near as Mars-like. The soil and the climate are almost similar, making the Opaline Silicate found on Earth relatively same in terms of formation on silicates found in Mars. Same Silicas are also found in Yellowstone National Park and Taupo Volcanic Zone, and both appear to be created from microbial life.

An image of the silica formations on the Gusev crater on Mars, taken by the Spirit rover in 2008.

Though, the said silica formations in the Yellowstone and Taupo are said to be ‘microbe’ in origin, declaring the same status for the features observed in Atacama and Mars would not be possible yet. Kurt Konhauser of the University of Alberta, editor-in-chief of Geobiology said, to test the Martian microbe is not on testing it through Earth analogs. He also said that something that seems to be microbial doesn’t always mean it is. Since there is no direct proof yet, no assumption that opaline silica features found in mars could be finalized yet.

“For right now, Ruff and Farmer believe the silica is worth looking into. Researchers will take a long look into the different processes that could have created these similar formations on Mars and Ruff and Farmer will do more investigating in El Tatio”. – Astronomy.com