- Press Release
- August 12, 2022
NASA Ames to Host ‘Magnetite on Mars’ Meeting
NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: You are invited to attend the
“Magnetite on Mars” meeting on June 4 and 5, to be held in the Space
Sciences Auditorium, Building N245, at NASA Ames Research Center. Research
experts from around the world will gather to discuss whether the magnetite,
a mineral common to both Earth and Mars, is of biological or non-biological
origin in the Mars meteorite ALH84001. To reach Ames, take the Moffett
Field exit off Highway 101 and drive east to the main gate. Members of the
news media must present a driver’s license or valid government-issued photo
I.D. and press credentials at the NASA Ames main gate, where they will be
issued a visitor badge and directed to Building N245. All foreign news
media must have clearance prior to the meeting, bring a passport and press
credentials, and will be escorted at all times.
Researchers from around the world will convene at a ‘Magnetite on Mars’
meeting on June 4 and 5 to review recent findings that support or refute
the biological origin of magnetite crystals in the ALH84001 Mars meteorite.
The meeting will be held in the Space Sciences Auditorium, Building N245,
at NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.
Scientists will examine the potential consequences of magnetic bacteria on
early Mars and consider whether the magnetic environment necessary for the
existence of the magnetite mineral was present on Mars 3.9 billion years
ago. They also will discuss whether magnetite’s presence on early Mars can
give us important clues about the planet’s current environment. Scientists
from the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany and Spain will present more
than 20 papers during 20-minute talks.
“We have to go beyond the current controversy over whether the magnetite in
the Mars meteorite is of biological or non-biological origin, and consider
what the implications are if the hypothesis is true,” said conference
organizer Dr. Chris McKay of NASA Ames. “If it is true, the implications
are that we may have to readjust the chronology of early life on Mars and
even redesign future Mars missions.”
The June 4 session begins at 8:15 a.m. PDT. Session I, chaired by McKay,
will discuss: “Is the magnetite of non-biological or biological
origin?” Session II, which begins at 2 p.m. PDT, will discuss “Does
magnetite on Earth provide insight into the biogenic magnetite on Mars?”
and is chaired by Dr. Ken Nealson of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, Calif., and the University of Southern California.
Session II, titled “Could magnetotaxis have developed on Mars?” begins at 9
a.m. PDT on June 5 and is chaired by Dr. Richard Frankel of the California
Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif. Magnetotaxis is the
orientation of magnetic bacteria along a magnetic heading, like a compass.
There will be a media interview opportunity from noon to 12:45 p.m. PDT on
June 5 in Conference Room 141 in Building 245, featuring McKay, Nealson,
Dr. David McKay of NASA Johnson Space Center, Dr. Imre Friedmann of Ames,
Dr. Joseph Kirschvink of the California Institute of Technology, and others.
Between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. PDT, a closing panel will sum up the workshop
A meeting agenda is posted on the Internet at:
Media representatives planning to attend should pre-register by contacting
Kathleen Burton in the NASA Ames Media and Community Relations Office.
NASA Ames is the agency’s lead center for astrobiology, the search for the
origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe, and the
location of the central offices of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, an
international research consortium. Information about NASA’s astrobiology
programs may be obtained at: