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Apparent fossils on the Allan Hills 84001 meteorite—a chunk of rock that formed on Mars some 4 billion years ago—were produced by water and not microbial Martians, according to new research. But the scientists behind the original fossil claim aren’t convinced.

The 4-billion-year-old fragment formed on Mars during the Red Planet’s turbulent Noachian period, was jettisoned to space by a giant impact around 17 million years ago, and landed on Earth some 13,000 years ago. Named for the Antarctic Allan Hills in which it was found, the 4.3-pound (1.94 kg) meteorite is among the oldest ever recovered.

A NASA-led group of scientists shocked the world in 1996 by daring to suggest that the worm-like carbonate globules on the meteorite were fossils, and therefore the first evidence of alien life. Many scientists questioned this interpretation, positing other theories for the alleged “biomorphs,” such as volcanic activity, impact events, and exposure to water. Most scientists agree that evidence of life is absent on ALH84001, but the debate continues after more than a quarter century.

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