Scotland's amazing geology might help solve Mars' biggest mystery – Scotsman comment

Siccar Point helped date the age of the Earth. Now rocks from Rum could help scientists discover whether there has ever been life on Mars

One afternoon in June 1788, James Hutton, aka the father of modern geology, stood at Siccar Point near Cockburnspath, pointed to a rocky outcrop and made an astonishing claim: here was evidence that the Earth, far from being some 6,000 years old as supposed by some religious scholars at the time, was much, much older.

John Playfair, one of his companions, later famously wrote: “The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time.” Today it is widely accepted the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and some regard Siccar Point as the world’s most important geological site.

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Now a different set of Scottish rocks may help discover something potentially equally profound about another planet, Mars. Scientists plan to study ancient stone from Rum in preparation for examining samples from the red planet, due to arrive on Earth in 2033, because of the similarities between them.

And those Martian rocks might just answer a very big question: was there ever life on Mars? If the Rum stones contribute to such a scientific breakthrough, Siccar Point could have a rival.



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