SCIENCE Life on Mars for all to see

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A piece of the Martian meteorite said to contain signs of life will be the star attraction at the Royal Society's annual science exhibition today. The tiny fragment will be under a binocular microscope with the image displayed on a screen.

It will not be possible to see the minute bacteria-like objects that shook the scientific world last year, because they are too small. But the display, jointly presented by the Open University, Manchester University and the Natural History Museum, is expected to attract a lot of attention.

The sliver of rock is from the meteorite ALH 84001, in which Nasa experts found minute structures thought to be micro-fossils, the fossilised remains of primitive organisms.

The meteorite was originally blasted off the surface of Mars by an impacting asteroid or comet before drifting in space for millions of years and then being drawn into the Earth's gravitational field.

A piece of another Martian meteorite that fell in a shower of stones at Nakhla in Egypt in 1911 - allegedly killing a dog - is also exhibited.