Atomic force microscopy imaging of fragments from the Martian meteorite ALH84001

Steele, Goddard, Beech, Tapper, Stapleton, Smith
  • Journal of Microscopy, January 1998, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2818.1998.00334.x

Scanning fragments of a Martian meterorite with the atomic force microscope

Photo by Eddi Aguirre on Unsplash

Photo by Eddi Aguirre on Unsplash

What is it about?

A combination of scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM) techniques, as well as atomic force microscopy (AFM) methods has been used to study fragments of the Martian meteorite ALH84001. Images of the same areas on the meteorite were obtained prior to and following gold/palladium coating by mapping the surface of the fragment using ESEM coupled with energy‐dispersive X‐ray analysis. Viewing of the fragments demonstrated the presence of structures, previously described as nanofossils by McKay et al. (Search for past life on Mars — possible relic biogenic activity in martian meteorite ALH84001. Science, 1996, pp. 924–930) of NASA who used SEM imaging of gold‐coated meteorite samples.

Why is it important?

Careful imaging of the fragments revealed that the observed structures were not an artefact introduced by the coating procedure.


Dr James R Smith
University of Portsmouth

An interesting project carried out earlier this century.

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