Is There Life On Mars?

Anome

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Caroline said:
It's the ratio of Carbonsummat to carbonsummatelse. It's too late in the day for me to check which isotopes.
Yet another of these carbo-centric life definitions. When will they work out that just because we're carbon-based, doesn't mean anything else will be?
 

mendhak

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Hands up those who are *hoping* for traces of life on Mars!



;)
 

mendhak

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Why not?
 
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Stormkhan

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Life on Mars, be it green-skinned, microbiotic, silicon-based or even fossilized, would be a major find if only to start the debate among theologians. It would question the Creation stance (although I can't see the problem of a Supreme "Call Me God" Being creating any intelligent life regardless of planet) and it would give serious space exploration a kick up the back-side!

Then again, I could see the NASA-Faked-It Conspiracists suddenly increasing in number as a lot of rabid fundamentalist priests deny any scientif evidence which doesn't fit into their cozy world-view!
 

lopaka

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Originally posted by The Frog Why not?


Yes, same question here. Obviously you have every right to feel that way, Homo Aves. But I'd be interested in your reason(s) for stating that the first incontrevertible proof of non-Earth based life was not "an important issue". Such a discovery wouldn't affect my day-to-day life one way or the other, but I know I'd be as excited as all get out.
 
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A

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I'm not entirely convinced that the Viking experiments didn't find life, even though the result was dismissed as a chemical reaction. The brief frantic burst of gas production followed by inactivity is about what one might expect from microbes adapted to live in a cold, dry environment if they're suddenly flooded with water and heated to earthlike temperatures. Maybe it really was metallic peroxides, but on the other hoof, maybe it was Martian bacteria suddenly getting more water and heat than they were equipped to handle.

Looking at the pictures from Spirit, I note that the dust-filled crater off in the distance has a dark mark in the dust. They're saying this might be a bounce mark from the landing. It's interesting then that the subsurface dust may be darker than the top dust. Again, there's ways to account for this apart from life, but it's intriguing.
 
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Stormkhan said:
Life on Mars, be it green-skinned, microbiotic, silicon-based or even fossilized, would be a major find if only to start the debate among theologians. It would question the Creation stance (although I can't see the problem of a Supreme "Call Me God" Being creating any intelligent life regardless of planet) and it would give serious space exploration a kick up the back-side!

In the event that microbial life is found on Earth, I think the first issue we'd need to nail would be whether there was a relationship between life here and there.

i.e. was life here seeded by Martian microbes (or vice versa)?

Only if Martian life was shown to have arisen separately would we have really big news on our hands.
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Scientist's dog finds evidence for life on Mars?

Australian scientists, and their dog, say life once existed on Mars

SYDNEY (AFP) Jan 29, 2004

Australian scientists said Thursday that a dog with a nose for sewage had found evidence that life once, and may still, exist on Mars.

Biophysicist Tony Taylor said his mongrel had sniffed out bacteria in mud from Queensland state that matched fossils of primitive organisms in a Martian meteorite which plunged into Antarctica 13,000 years ago.

This backed a theory by NASA scientists who examined the potato-sized meteorite, called ALH84001, after it was retrieved in 1984 and concluded 12 years later that life existed on Mars.

Taylor said his 13-year-old Dingo-Kelpie cross named Tamarind had unearthed the mud-bound bacteria while sniffing around in the ooze at Moreton Bay on the Queensland coast in 1990s.

"She's comes along on all my field trips," Taylor told AFP, explaining he had taught the dog to sniff out sediments containing specific bacteria. "It smells like sewage and she knows the word 'stinky'."

Taylor, who works at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation in Sydney, said he and colleague Professor John Barry examined 82 different bacteria retrieved from the area identified by the dog and discovered they contained 11 characteristics also found in the Mars fossils, including a structure other scientists claimed could only be formed in intense heat.

"They were a perfect match, absolutely perfect. Eleven features out of 11," said Taylor, whose work, crediting Tamarind, was published Thursday in the "Journal of Microscopy".

"These fossils are four billion years old, they pre-date the fossil record of life here on Earth."

Taylor developed an imaging technique that allowed him to examine the bacteria at a much higher resolution and he is delighted with the findings.

"You have to understand, this has been the most emotional, heated debate in history," he said.

He now believes the combined data warrant a manned mission to Mars to retrieve further samples.

"The results indicate very strongly that life was once there and there are lot of concepts of what we know of life here on Earth that collectively indicate that life might still be there," he said.

"When we say life, we're talking about bacteria, single cell primitive life forms, like we have here on Earth.

"It'd be underground, we'd have to drill down, so these little rovers that are crawling all over the surface would never find it."

Two US-backed rovers are now exploring the red plant and transmitting unprecedented images of the barren landscape.

Taylor said it was likely there were fossils on Mars and they would be well preserved.

"What we've learned from Earth is that as long as there was life on Mars, there probably still is as long there is water in warm rock," he said, adding that data currently being beamed back from the planet indicated there was water on its surface.

http://www.spacedaily.com/2004/040129072005.57d8abf6.html
 

ruffready

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Methane Find On Mars May Be Sign Of Life

By Steve Connor
Science Editor
The Independent - UK
3-27-4
A strong signal of life on Mars has been detected by scientists at the US National Aeronautics and Space Admin- istration (Nasa) and the European Space Agency.

Each group has independently discovered tantalising evidence of methane in the Martian atmosphere. Methane, a waste product of living organisms on Earth, could also be a by-product of alien microbes living under the surface of the Red Planet.

The detection of methane has been the holy grail of scientists studying the Martian atmosphere, as its presence could provide unequivocal proof that there is life beyond Earth.

Neither Nasa nor the European Space Agency (ESA) has publicly announced the findings, but specialists who have seen the data believe the discovery is genuine - although they are unsure what it means in terms of confirming the presence of life.

The discovery comes weeks after Nasa and ESA announced new findings relating to the presence of huge bodies of water on Mars which could have supported life.

The European effort is led by Vittorio Formisano, of the Institute of Physics and Interplanetary Science in Rome, who operates the methane-detecting spectrometer on board the Mars Express spacecraft orbiting the planet. "We can identify the presence of methane in the Martian atmosphere and we've been able to evaluate how much of it there would be," Professor Formisano said. "Globally, if I average all the data I have, I can find something of the order of 10 or 10.5 parts per billion. It's detectable, but only if I average a lot of data."

Methane is destroyed by the intense ultraviolet radiation on Mars because the gas has a relatively short photochemical lifetime of about 300 years, so if it is present there must be something producing it continually, Professor Formisano said. "[Its presence] is significant and very important. If it is present you need a source," he added.

The second group to detect signals of methane in the Martian atmosphere is led by Michael Mumma of Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, who used powerful spectroscopic telescopes based on Earth.

This team is even believed to have detected variations in the concentrations of methane, with a peak coming from the ancient Martian seabed of Meridiani Planum, which is being explored by a Nasa rover.

This could indicate a subterranean source of methane which is pumping out the gas, either due to some residual geological activity or because of the presence of living organisms producing it as a waste gas.

Asked whether the continual production of methane is strong evidence of a biological origin of the gas, Dr Mumma said: "I think it is, myself personally."

He added: "It's difficult to imagine that primordial methane [from geological activity] would continue outgassing for four billion years [the age of Mars]. This looks very intriguing."

Both teams of scientists are now busy validating their results before their respective organisations are prepared to go public on the implications.

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_medical/story.jsp?story=505454
 

Stormkhan

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"If it breathes, it farts!" - Stormkhans Guide to Biology.

Whats so hard about xenobiology, anyhow?
 

Anome

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It's kind of dull. After all it assumes that alien life will look sufficiently like Earth life that we'll recognise it.

After all, biology is the study of organic systems, and organic systems are based on carbon. Sounds like we're making a few too many assumptions if you ask me.

Now show me something based on silicon, or those replicating plasma cells. That's alien.
 

Stormkhan

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For all we know, many of the rocks in Mars photos are the alien lifeforms ... and are waiting for us to give up dropping metallic junk on their planet!
 

ruffready

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I say

I think its a rather cool story (and very intriguing), little things under the surface "alive" it keeps the juices flowing, for (some) of US . (and can generate more funding for future missions) AND now the fish head I posted that I found on the surface (I forgot where.. what thread) from SOL 006 "spirit rover" is probably A REAL FISH HEAD!!
 

Anome

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Stormkhan said:
For all we know, many of the rocks in Mars photos are the alien lifeforms ... and are waiting for us to give up dropping metallic junk on their planet!
Or wish we'd drop something a bit tastier, like some plutonium or iridium, or something.
 

Stormkhan

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Curse of Mars? Knickers! The Martians are using their immense silicon strength to crush the probe transmitters ... into rather flattering hats and jewellry.
 

tzb57r

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Now show me something based on silicon... That's alien.

… and highly unlikely I’m afraid. While silicon based life forms is not outwith the bounds of extreme science fiction, silicate based life forms would be a bitch to recognise. The problem with Silicon is that it can’t form long chains of Silicon atoms as Carbon does in proteins and DNA/RNA. The maximum Si-Si-Si chain that is stable is seven. It may be possible to construct a Si-O-Si-O chain, but I don’t know how long a chain of this type will remain stable.

Carbon is actually pretty unique in the periodic table for forming long and stable molecules composed primarily of itself.

Carbon based lifeforms also show a very wide diversity almost to the point that we have difficulty in recognising it (i.e. Prions)
 

Rrose_Selavy

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anome said:
It's kind of dull. After all it assumes that alien life will look sufficiently like Earth life that we'll recognise it.

After all, biology is the study of organic systems, and organic systems are based on carbon. Sounds like we're making a few too many assumptions if you ask me.

Now show me something based on silicon, or those replicating plasma cells. That's alien.

Well I think there was the Horta, from Star Trek but we'd have to find a Vulcan as well, to mind meld so we can communicate with it.
 

NilesCalder

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:_omg: it's more of the Clan Buttock! :eek!!!!: :cross eye
 

river_styx

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It's that rabbit.
We all know how many droppings an earth rabbit produces in one day, imagine how many a martian bunny could fire out.


Could it be coming out of the polar ice caps by any chance?
 

Anome

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tzb57r said:
… and highly unlikely I’m afraid. While silicon based life forms is not outwith the bounds of extreme science fiction, silicate based life forms would be a bitch to recognise. The problem with Silicon is that it can’t form long chains of Silicon atoms as Carbon does in proteins and DNA/RNA. The maximum Si-Si-Si chain that is stable is seven. It may be possible to construct a Si-O-Si-O chain, but I don’t know how long a chain of this type will remain stable.

Carbon is actually pretty unique in the periodic table for forming long and stable molecules composed primarily of itself.
Who's to say that you need long polymers to have life? Maybe large crystals would suffice. Silicates are good at crystals.

This is the problem that "Astro-Biology" faces. It's stuck on the idea that life "out there" is like life "in here". If it is, it makes for a dull universe.

I really want to see aliens that are truly alien, not just some Earth life dressed up in space suits.
 
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Do you reckon that it means that there might be oil as well?(Hmmm, GWB announces manned missions to Mars. Hmmm... ;) )
 
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Methane on Uranus.
Maybe the first sign of an interplanitary vindaloo house.
:rofl:
 

Rubyait

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Mineral analysis may reveal life on Mars

Minerals - as opposed to organic compounds - could reveal the presence of ancient life on Mars, a new study reports. The research suggests relatively simple experiments aboard future landers or sample-return missions to the Red Planet could be used to test for life.

Some evidence suggests Mars was warm and wet in its first hundred million years, raising the possibility that it could have fostered life. But neither of the two Viking landers found organic molecules when they studied the planet's soil in the 1970s.

Now, researchers led by Fabien Stalport of the University of Paris in France say inorganic compounds, which tend to survive longer than their organic counterparts, may act as "tracers of biological activity". To test their idea, they studied the mineral calcite, which is the crystallised form of calcium carbonate.

On Earth, calcite is formed in three ways. Living organisms create biotic calcite – limestone, for example, is produced when biologically formed calcite falls to the ocean floor. Alternatively, geologic processes such as magmatism can form abiotic calcite. And a combination of processes, which might include biological ones, can act on existing rocks to produce diagenetic calcite.

Early degradation
The researchers took 12 terrestrial calcite samples – from sources representing all three types of the mineral – to see if they could detect differences among them. Using X-ray diffraction and electron scanning microscopy to study the samples' mineralogical and chemical composition, they found the abiotic samples were pure. But the biotic samples contained impurities – they grew faster and sometimes substituted magnesium atoms for calcium in their crystalline structures.

These defects "structurally weaken the calcite", the authors write in Geophysical Research Letters. This weakening was detected when the researchers steadily heated the samples and noted when they began to lose mass by decomposing into gaseous carbon dioxide.

The biotic samples started degrading at a temperature 40°C cooler than the abiotic ones. And two diagenetic samples that had been shaped by biological processes began to decompose at a temperature close to that of the biotic calcite.

"This result is encouraging for a possible preservation of mineral biotic calcite structures on Mars for billions of years," the authors write. They suggest that future Mars landers be equipped with instruments to heat and weigh minerals to determine whether they had been formed by life.

Garbled signals
Christopher Romanek, a geochemist at the University of Georgia in Athens, US, says such instruments should not be difficult to put on a rover – but interpreting the results may be harder. He cautions that even if calcite is biological in origin, geological processes can cover up, or overprint, the biological signal.

"The older materials are, the more likely they've been overprinted by many, many processes," he told New Scientist. "It can garble the signal so much it's hard to tell much about it at all."

Steve Squyres, principal investigator for NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers now exploring the Red Planet, says mineral studies "could be a very useful clue" in understanding the history of life on Mars. "Detecting evidence of life on Mars is probably going to be very difficult, so investigating every reasonable possible avenue makes sense," Squyres told New Scientist.

Still, he points out that there is little evidence for significant amounts of calcite on Mars. The authors acknowledge this, but say evidence for carbonates has been detected in Martian dust and meteorites. They plan to focus future studies on carbonates associated with primitive life on Earth, such as stromatolites – ancient dome-like structures which once housed bacteria, and other biologically formed minerals, such as silica.

http://www.newscientistspace.com/article.ns?id=dn8534
 

Mr_Eamcat2

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Here's a thought - sorry if it's been touched on before:

Surely by landing on another planet/moon we contaminate it?

If we left bacteria behind when we first landed on the moon, or first roamed/dumped down on mars, with no competition (assuming it could thrive in the environment) couldn't we be fooled by our own mistakes?
 

feen5

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Your right we could be fooled by our own contamination, and bacteria has been found to survive trips to space. Bacteria on lenses of cameras on the moon landing space craft were revived after their trip. I believe though that the probes sent to detect life especially on mars are not looking for actual organisms more for signs of the existance of life (such as methane in a planets atmosphere can be an indication of life). I doubt if even bacteria from the very early space probes could produce enough evidence to contaminate any findings though you would never know.
It is a big problem in particular with the planned mission to Europa. Because if, as it is believed, that a liquid ocean exists under the ice a machine to drill into through the crust could unwittingly take earthly organisms into the ocean and harm anytjing that maybe living there. I think that the russians found a lake in Antartica that has been completely cut off from the outside world for millions of years and they also have to plan very carefully for any probe that maybe used to research this lake. I will have a look around for some more information on this and post some links when i have a chance.
 

AMPHIARAUS

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Mr_Eamcat2 said:
Here's a thought - sorry if it's been touched on before:

Surely by landing on another planet/moon we contaminate it?

If we left bacteria behind when we first landed on the moon, or first roamed/dumped down on mars, with no competition (assuming it could thrive in the environment) couldn't we be fooled by our own mistakes?

Someone more knowledgable will no doubt know for sure, but I think all the early moon probes and all mars probes so far are/were fully steralized to prevent contamination.

Later moon probes were not steralized and I think that one of the manned missions retreived parts of a probe and it was found to have bacteria living inside a coaxial cable, which was impressive considering how long it had sat on the surface exposed to cold, radiation and so on.

Just shows how tenacious simple organisms are.
 
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