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A new ovoid structure discovered in the Nakhla Martian meteorite is made of nanocrystalline iron-rich clay, contains a variety of minerals, and shows evidence of undergoing a past shock event from impact, with resulting melting of the permafrost and mixing of surface and subsurface fluids.

Based on the results of a broad range of analytical studies to determine the origin of this new structure, scientists present the competing hypotheses for how this ovoid formed, point to the most likely conclusion, and discuss how these findings impact the field of astrobiology in a fascinating article published in Astrobiology, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.

In the article, "A Conspicuous Clay Ovoid in Nakhla: Evidence for Subsurface Hydrothermal Alteration on Mars with Implications for Astrobiology," Elias Chatzitheodoridis, National Technical University of Athens, Greece, and Sarah Haigh and Ian Lyon, the University of Manchester, UK, describe the use of tools including electron microscopy, x-ray, and spectroscopy to analyze the ovoid structure. While the authors do not believe the formation of this structure involved biological materials, that is a possible hypothesis, and they note that evidence exists supporting the presence of niche environments in the Martian subsurface that could support life.

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