A prominent geobiologist has found what she believes to be the strongest evidence yet that there was once life on Mars.
Dr Nora Noffke believes photos taken by NASA's Curiosity rover show identical visual trends between the surface of Mars and Earth that are caused, as far as we know, only by microbial life.
Sifting through the thousands of images that Curiosity sent back Noffke has carefully studied them and published her findings which are being featured in Astrobiology magazine this month.
Chris McKay, a planetary scientist and associate editor of Astrobiology confirmed that this was one of the first times a paper of this nature had been featured in the journal.
"I've seen many papers that say 'Look, here's a pile of dirt on Mars, and here's a pile of dirt on Earth,"
"That's an easy argument to make, and it's typically not very convincing. However, Noffke's paper is the most carefully done analysis of the sort that I've seen, which is why it's the first of its kind published in Astrobiology."
Noffke took her 20 years of experience and applied it to the images that Curiosity sent back and out of them, began to see a pattern.
Microbial life will leave evidence of its existence on the rock around it. There's huge variance depending on the location, climate and so on, however if one categorises then there begins to be a pattern.
"If the Martian structures aren't of biological origin, then the similarities in morphology, but also in distribution patterns with regards to MISS on Earth would be an extraordinary coincidence."
Noffke's findings come just a few weeks after Curiosity found huge spikes in the levels of methane gas found on the planet's surface.
Methane is widely regarded as one of the key building blocks for sustaining life and spikes in the gas could indicate an organic source -- though NASA has typically remained circumspect on the implications.Suggest a correction