Is There Life On Mars?

ramonmercado

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Mars 'has life's building blocks'
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18196353
By Mark Mardell
North America editor

The researchers suggest Mars has "been undertaking organic chemistry for most of its history"

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New evidence from meteorites suggests that the basic building blocks of life are present on Mars.

The study found that carbon present in 10 meteorites, spanning more than four billion years of Martian history, came from the planet and was not the result of contamination on Earth.

Details of the work have been published in the journal Science.

But the research also shows the Martian carbon did not come from life forms.

A team of scientists based at the Carnegie Institution for Science, based in Washington DC, found "reduced carbon" in the meteorites and says it was created by volcanic activity on Mars.

Reduced carbon is carbon that is chemically bonded to hydrogen or itself.


The results come from studying Martian meteorites
They argue this is evidence "that Mars has been undertaking organic chemistry for most of its history."

The team's leader Dr Andrew Steele told BBC News: "For about the last 40 years we have been looking for a pool of what is called 'reduced carbon' on Mars, trying to find where it is, if it's there, asking "does it exist?"

"Without carbon, the building blocks of life cannot exist... So it is reduced carbon that, with hydrogen, with oxygen, with nitrogen make up the organic molecules of life."

He says the new analysis has answered the first question.

"This research shows, yes - it does exist on Mars and now we are moving to the next set of questions.

The Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover) will be next to land on Mars
"What happened to it, what was its fate, did it take the next step of creating life on Mars?"

He hopes the next mission to land on the Red Planet - the Mars Science Laboratory, also known as the "Curiosity" rover - will shed more light on the big question.

"The question 'are we alone' has been a big driver of science but it relates back to our own origins on this planet. If there is no life on Mars why? It allow us to make a more informed hypothesis about why life is here."

So does Dr Steele think there was, or is, life on Mars?

He laughs: "Get me some rocks back, I'll have a look and let you know."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18196353
 
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ramonmercado

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Evidence of Life On Mars Could Come from Martian Moon Phobos
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 015408.htm

The image shows the orbits of the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos and the spread of potential particle trajectories from an asteroid impact on Mars. (Credit: Purdue University image/courtesy of Loic Chappaz)
ScienceDaily (June 29, 2012) — A mission to a Martian moon could return with alien life, according to experts at Purdue University, but don't expect the invasion scenario presented by summer blockbusters like "Men in Black 3" or "Prometheus."

"We are talking little green microbes, not little green men," said Jay Melosh, a distinguished professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences and physics and aerospace engineering at Purdue. "A sample from the moon Phobos, which is much easier to reach than the Red Planet itself, would almost surely contain Martian material blasted off from large asteroid impacts. If life on Mars exists or existed within the last 10 million years, a mission to Phobos could yield our first evidence of life beyond Earth."

Melosh led a team chosen by NASA's Planetary Protection Office to evaluate if a sample from Phobos could contain enough recent material from Mars to include viable Martian organisms. The study was commissioned to prepare for the failed 2011 Russian Phobos-Grunt mission, but there is continued international interest in a Phobos mission, he said. It will likely be a recurring topic as NASA reformulates its Mars Exploration Program.

A Phobos mission was discussed at NASA's Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration workshop and a report issued June 26 stated that the Martian moons are "important destinations that may provide much of the value of human surface exploration at reduced cost and risk."

Melosh collaborated with Kathleen Howell, the Hsu Lo Professor of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, and graduate students Loic Chappaz and Mar Vaquero on the project.

The researchers combined their expertise in impact cratering and orbital mechanics to determine how much material was displaced by particular asteroid impacts and whether individual particles would land on Phobos, the closer of the two Martian moons.

The team concluded that a 200-gram sample scooped from the surface of Phobos could contain, on average, about one-tenth of a milligram of Mars surface material launched in the past 10 million years and 50 billion individual particles from Mars. The same sample could contain as much as 50 milligrams of Mars surface material from the past 3.5 billion years.

"The time frames are important because it is thought that after 10 million years of exposure to the high levels of radiation on Phobos, any biologically active material would be destroyed," Howell said. "Of course older Martian material would still be rich with information, but there would be much less concern about bringing a viable organism back to Earth and necessary quarantine measures."

When an asteroid hits the surface of a planet it ejects a cone-shaped spray of surface material, similar to the splash created when someone does a cannonball into a swimming pool. These massive impacts pulverize the surface material and scatter high-speed fragments. The team calculated that the bulk of the fragments from such a blast on Mars would be particles about one-thousandth of a millimeter in diameter, or 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, but similar in size to terrestrial bacteria.

The team followed the possible paths the tiny particles could take as they were hurtled from the planet's surface through space, examining possible speeds, angles of departure and orbital forces. The team plotted more than 10 million trajectories and evaluated which would intercept Phobos and where they might land on the moon during its eight-hour orbit around Mars.

The probability of a particle landing on Phobos depends primarily on the power of the blast that launched it from the surface, Chappaz said.

"It is estimated that during the past 10 million years there have been at least four large impact events powerful enough to launch material into space, and we focused on several large craters as possible points of origin," he said. "It turns out that no matter where Phobos is in its orbit, it would have captured material from these powerful impact events."

After the team submitted its report, scientists identified a large, nearly 60-kilometers-in-diameter crater on Mars. The crater, named Mojave, is estimated to be less than 5 million years old, and its existence suggests that there would be an even greater amount of Martian material on Phobos that could contain viable organisms than estimated, Melosh said.

"It is not outside the realm of possibility that a sample could contain a dormant organism that might wake up when exposed to more favorable conditions on Earth," he said. "I participated in a study that found that living microbes can survive launch from impacts on rock, and other studies have shown some microscopic organisms can tolerate a lot of cosmic radiation."

This possibility has been a consideration for some time, and Michael Crichton's "The Andromeda Strain" brought it to public consciousness in 1969. However the movie scenario of a fatal contamination is unlikely, Melosh said.

"Approximately one ton of Martian material lands on Earth every year, " he said. "There is a lot more swapping back and forth of material within our solar system than people realize. In fact, we may owe our existence to life on Mars."

Howell also is optimistic that life is not unique to Earth.

"It's difficult to believe there hasn't been life somewhere out there in the vast expanse of space," Howell said. "The question is if the timeline overlaps with ours enough for us to recognize it. Even if we found no evidence of life in a sample from Phobos, it would not be a definitive answer to the question of whether or not there was life on Mars. There still may have been life that existed too long ago for us to detect it."

Melosh recently presented the team's findings at a joint NASA and European Space Agency meeting in Austria, and Chappaz will present the data at a meeting on July 14 in Mysore, India.

Story Source:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 015408.htm
 
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ramonmercado

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Dinosaur asteroid 'sent life to Mars'
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25201572
By James Morgan
Science reporter, BBC News

Artist's impression of Chicxulub impact

The Chicxulub impact sparked a mass extinction - but did it send life hurtling into space?

Is Nasa looking in the wrong place for life?
The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs may have catapulted life to Mars and the moons of Jupiter, US researchers say.

They calculated how many Earth rocks big enough to shelter life were ejected by asteroids in the last 3.5bn years.

The Chicxulub impact was strong enough to fire chunks of debris all the way to Europa, they write in Astrobiology.

Thousands of potentially life-bearing rocks also made it to Mars, which may once have been habitable, they add.

"We find that rock capable of carrying life has likely transferred from both Earth and Mars to all of the terrestrial planets in the solar system and Jupiter," says lead author Rachel Worth, of Penn State University.

Continue reading the main story
A Hitchhikers Guide

Earth rocks big enough* to support life made it to:

Venus 26,000,000 rocks
Mercury 730,000
Mars 360,000
Jupiter 83,000
Saturn 14,000
Io 10
Europa 6
Titan 4
Callisto 1
*3m diameter or larger.

Source: Worth et al, Astrobiology

"Any missions to search for life on Titan or the moons of Jupiter will have to consider whether biological material is of independent origin, or another branch in Earth's family tree."

Panspermia - the idea that organisms can "hitchhike" around the solar system on comets and debris from meteor strikes - has long fascinated astronomers.

But thanks to advances in computing, they are now able to simulate these journeys - and follow potential stowaways as they hitch around the Solar System.

In this new study, researchers first estimated the number of rocks bigger than 3m ejected from Earth by major impacts.

Europa
Could life be swimming in the oceans of Europa?
Three metres is the minimum they think necessary to shield microbes from the Sun's radiation over a journey lasting up to 10 million years.

They then mapped the likely fate of these voyagers. Many simply hung around in Earth orbit, or were slowly drawn back down.

Others were pulled into the Sun, or sling-shotted out of the Solar System entirely.

Yet a small but significant number made it all the way to alien worlds which might welcome life. "Enough that it matters," Ms Worth told BBC News.

About six rocks even made it as far as Europa, a satellite of Jupiter with a liquid ocean covered in an icy crust.

"Even using conservative, realistic estimates... it's still possible that organisms could be swimming around out there in the oceans of Europa," she said.

Travel to Mars was much more common. About 360,000 large rocks took a ride to the Red Planet, courtesy of historical asteroid impacts.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

I'd be surprised if life hasn't gotten to Mars. It seems reasonable that at some point some Earth organisms made it”

Rachel Worth
Penn State University
Perhaps the most famous of these impacts was at Chicxulub in Mexico about 66 million years ago - when an object the size of a small city collided with Earth.

The impact has been blamed for the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, triggering volcanic eruptions and wildfires which choked the planet with smoke and dust.

It also launched about 70 billion kg of rock into space - 20,000kg of which could have reached Europa. And the chances that a rock big enough to harbour life arrived are "better than 50/50", researchers estimate.

But could living organisms actually survive these epic trips?

"I'd be surprised if life hasn't gotten to Mars," Ms Worth told BBC News.

"It's beyond the scope of our study. But it seems reasonable that at some point some Earth organisms have made it over there."

Early Mars - artist's impression
Early Mars is thought to have been a muddy, watery world
It has been shown that tiny creatures can withstand the harsh environment of space. And bacterial spores can be revived after hundreds of millions of years in a dormant state.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

I sometimes joke we might find ammonite shells on the Moon from the Chicxulub impact”

Prof Jay Melosh
Purdue University
But even if a hardy microbe did stow away for all those millennia, it might simply burn up on arrival, or land in inhospitable terrain.

The most habitable places in range of Earth are Europa, Mars and Titan - but while all three have likely held water, it may not have been on offer to visitors.

Europa's oceans are capped by a crust of ice that may be impenetrably thick.

"But it appears regions of the ice sheet sometimes break into large chunks separated by liquid water, which later refreezes," Ms Worth said.

"Any meteorites lying on top of the ice sheet in a region when this occurs would stand a chance of falling through.

"Additionally, the moons are thought to have been significantly warmer in the not-too-distant past."

On Mars, there is little evidence of flowing water during the last 3.5bn years - the likeliest window for Earth life to arrive.

Bacillus subtilis endospores
The first space travellers? Bacterial endospores can survive for millions of years
But what if the reverse trip took place?

The early Martian atmosphere appears to have been warm and wet - prime conditions for the development of life.

And if Martian microbes ever did exist, transfer to Earth is "highly probable" due to the heavy traffic of meteorites between our planets, Ms Worth told BBC News.

"Billions have fallen on Earth from Mars since the dawn of our planetary system. It is even possible that life on Earth originated on Mars."

While her team are not the first to calculate that panspermia is possible, their 10-million-year simulation is the most extended yet, said astrobiologist Prof Jay Melosh, of Purdue University.

"The study strongly reinforces the conclusion that, once large impacts eject material from the surface of a planet such as the Earth or Mars, the ejected debris easily finds its way from one planet to another," he told BBC News.

"The Chicxulub impact itself might not have been a good candidate because it occurred in the ocean (50 to 500m deep water) and, while it might have ejected a few sea-surface creatures, like ammonites, into space, it would not likely have ejected solid rocks.

"I sometimes joke that we might find ammonite shells on the Moon from that event.

"But other large impacts on the Earth may indeed have ejected rocks into interplanetary space."
 

Zilch5

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NASA Scientists Perplexed by Mysterious Mars Rock Unlike Anything They've Ever Seen Before

Life on Mars has yet to be found, although the Curiosity rover did find some compelling evidence last year that the Red Planet once had free-flowing, liquid water on its surface. That is about as exciting as things have gotten during NASA's explorations of Mars, until recently when a mysterious rock appeared on the planet's surface that wasn't there just a few weeks ago.

NASA scientists are perplexed, and have never seen anything quite like this before. Furthermore, it is unlike anything else they've seen on Mars itself to date.

Lead Mars Exploration rover scientist Steve Squyres describes the rock as looking like a large jelly donut, explaining:

“It looks white around the edge in the middle and there’s a low spot in the center that’s dark red – it looks like a jelly doughnut.”

The instruments on NASA's Opportunity rover that are analyzing the rock are sending back to Earth data that is as mysterious as the jelly donut-like rock itself. Squyres says:

“It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It’s very high in sulphur, it’s very high in magnesium, its got twice as much manganese as we’ve ever seen in anything on Mars."

Due to bad weather, Opportunity has been stuck photographing the same region of Mars for more than a month, which is how the rock's appearance was even discovered. Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California have been monitoring the images that the rover has been sending back to Earth.

clevelandleader.com/node/22030
Link is dead. No archived version found.

See Also:

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140129.html
https://www.nasa.gov/jpl/mer/martian-jelly-doughnut-rock-pia17942/
 
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ramonmercado

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Full text and illustrations at link.

Space Station research shows that hardy little space travelers could colonize Mars

In the movies, humans often fear invaders from Mars. These days, scientists are more concerned about invaders to Mars, in the form of micro-organisms from Earth. Three recent scientific papers examined the risks of interplanetary exchange of organisms using research from the International Space Station. All three, Survival of Rock-Colonizing Organisms After 1.5 Years in Outer Space, Resistance of Bacterial Endospores to Outer Space for Planetary Protection Purposes and Survival of Bacillus pumilus Spores for a Prolonged Period of Time in Real Space Conditions, have appeared in Astrobiology Journal.

Organisms hitching a ride on a spacecraft have the potential to contaminate other celestial bodies, making it difficult for scientists to determine whether a life form existed on another planet or was introduced there by explorers. So it's important to know what types of micro-organisms from Earth can survive on a spacecraft or landing vehicle.

Currently, spacecraft landing on Mars or other planets where life might exist must meet requirements for a maximum allowable level of microbial life, or bioburden. These acceptable levels were based on studies of how various life forms survive exposure to the rigors associated with space travel.

"If you are able to reduce the numbers to acceptable levels, a proxy for cleanliness, the assumption is that the life forms will not survive under harsh space conditions," explains Kasthuri J. Venkateswaran, a researcher with the Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a co-author on all three papers. That assumption may not hold up, though, as recent research has shown that some microbes are hardier than expected, and others may use various protective mechanisms to survive interplanetary flights.

These are electron micrographs of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 spores on aluminum before and after exposure to space conditions. Credit: [Reproduced with permission from P. Vaishampayan et al., Survival of Bacillus pumilus Spores for a Prolonged Period of Time in Real Space Conditions. Astrobiology Vol 12, No 5, 2012.]

Spore-forming bacteria are of particular concern because spores can withstand certain sterilization procedures and may best be able to survive the harsh environments of outer space or planetary surfaces. Spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 have shown especially high resistance to techniques used to clean spacecraft, such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation and peroxide treatment. When researchers exposed this hardy organism to a simulated Mars environment that kills standard spores in 30 seconds, it survived 30 minutes. For one of the recent experiments, Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 spores were exposed for 18 months on the European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF), a test facility mounted outside the space station.

"After testing exposure to the simulated Mars environment, we wanted to see what would happen in real space, and EuTEF gave us the chance," says Venkateswaran. "To our surprise, some of the spores survived for 18 months." These surviving spores had higher concentrations of proteins associated with UV radiation resistance and, in fact, showed elevated UV resistance when revived and re-exposed on Earth.

The findings also provide insight into how robust microbial communities are able to survive in extremely hostile regions on Earth and how these microbes are affected by radiation. ...
http://phys.org/news/2014-05-space-stat ... -mars.html
 

ramonmercado

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A habitable environment on Martian volcano?

Possibly habitable environs. Braided fluvial channels (inset) emerge from the edge of glacial deposits roughly 210 million years old on the martian volcano Arsia Mons, nearly twice as high as Mount Everest. (Colors indicate elevation.)
Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University/Brown University

The Martian volcano Arsia Mons may have been home to one of the most recent habitable environments yet found on the Red Planet, geologists say. The research shows that volcanic eruptions beneath a glacial ice sheet would have created substantial amounts of liquid water on Mars's surface around 210 million years ago. Where there was water, there is the possibility of past life.


Heat from a volcano erupting beneath an immense glacier would have created large lakes of liquid water on Mars in the relatively recent past. And where there's water, there is also the possibility of life. A recent paper by Brown University researchers calculates how much water may have been present near the Arsia Mons volcano and how long it may have remained.
Nearly twice as tall as Mount Everest, Arsia Mons is the third tallest volcano on Mars and one of the largest mountains in the solar system. This new analysis of the landforms surrounding Arsia Mons shows that eruptions along the volcano's northwest flank happened at the same time that a glacier covered the region around 210 million years ago. The heat from those eruptions would have melted massive amounts of ice to form englacial lakes -- bodies of water that form within glaciers like liquid bubbles in a half-frozen ice cube.

The ice-covered lakes of Arsia Mons would have held hundreds of cubic kilometers of meltwater, according to calculations by Kat Scanlon, a graduate student at Brown who led the work. And where there's water, there's the possibility of a habitable environment.
"This is interesting because it's a way to get a lot of liquid water very recently on Mars," Scanlon said.

While 210 million years ago might not sound terribly recent, the Arsia Mons site is much younger than the habitable environments turned up by Curiosity and other Mars rovers. Those sites are all likely older than 2.5 billion years. The fact that the Arsia Mons site is relatively young makes it an interesting target for possible future exploration.

"If signs of past life are ever found at those older sites, then Arsia Mons would be the next place I would want to go," Scanlon said.

A paper describing Scanlon's work is published in the journal Icarus.
Scientists have speculated since the 1970s that the northwest flank of Arsia Mons may once have been covered by glacial ice. That view got a big boost in 2003 when Brown geologist Jim Head and Boston University's David Marchant showed that terrain around Arsia Mons looks strikingly similar to landforms left by receding glaciers in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Parallel ridges toward the bottom of the mountain appear to be drop moraines -- piles of rubble deposited at the edges of a receding glacier. An assemblage of small hills in the region also appears to be debris left behind by slowly flowing glacial ice.

The glacier idea got another boost with recently developed climate models for Mars that take into account changes in the planet's axis tilt. The models suggested that during periods of increased tilt, ice now found at the poles would have migrated toward the equator. That would make Mars's giant mid-latitude mountains -- Ascraeus Mons, Pavonis Mons and Arsia Mons -- prime locations for glaciation around 210 million years ago. ...
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 154748.htm
 

ramonmercado

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Methane? What could cows it?

NASA’s Curiosity rover has detected fluctuating traces of methane – a possible sign of life – in the thin, cold air of the Martian atmosphere, researchers announced today at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Across Mars and within Gale Crater, where Curiosity is slowly climbing a spire of sedimentary rock called Mount Sharp, the methane exists at a background concentration of slightly less than one part per billion by volume in the atmosphere (ppb). However, for reasons unknown, four times across a period of two months the rover measured much higher methane abundances, at about ten times the background level. Further in-situ studies of the methane emissions could help pin down whether Mars has life, now or in its deep past, though it is unclear when or if those studies will ever take place. The findings are published in the journal Science. ...

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nasa-rover-finds-mysterious-methane-emissions-on-mars/
 
G

garrick92

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This is a new observation although the fact that the martian atmosphere contains methane has been remarked upon before. It's possible that it's martian microbes (or, even less likely, something more complex) but geological processes are known to create methane 'burps' too. I can't think of an explanation for why martian microbes would produce such 'burps' though, which means it's probably a false alarm. But as the SciAm article observes (in a roundabout way) without getting human investigators there it's probably going to remain a mystery for a while.

One detail I saw reported elsewhere is that the lander's weather station indicated that there was a breeze flowing from the north of the crater at the time of the readings, which could indicate a localised source, perhaps tantalisingly nearby.
 

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It would be fun if the evidence for life on another planet finally comes from farting bacteria, rather than finding the ruins of a lost civilization.
 

Mythopoeika

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Another intriguing video of weird stuff on Mars:

 

eburacum

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Let's have a look at Johnson's 'summary for life on Mars.'
1/ There are non-natural structures on Mars.
No, there aren't. There are lots of intriguing natural structures but nothing that can be said to be non-natural.
2/Surface water ice was photographed 26 years ago in some detail.
Not really controversial. Water ice certainly exists at the Martian north pole and probably elsewhere.
3/Dr Gilbert Levin, creator of the Viking Life Detection Experiment says his experiment worked.
Yes, he does, and he may be right. Hopefully he is. But on an alien planet there could be many abiotic reactions that would mimic life in his results, so the case is far from settled.
4/There is evidence of biomarker gases in the Martian atmosphere
Also true. But once again abiotic sources might produce the same results. One possibilty is that they are remnants of a long-lost biosphere, something like kerogen or fossil fuel, seeping periodically to the surface.
5/There is some evidence that photos that NASA have presented to the public have not always displayed appropriate colours.
This one requires some discussion. Some of the earlier images were made using false colours, because the wavelengths the cameras were sensitive to were not the same as the ones the human eye is sensitive to. More recent images are much more accurate; we can say for certain that the sky on Mars is not blue, for example (except at sunrise and sunset).
6/A number of the recent rover images show evidence of soil moisture
Quite likely. Another hopeful sign.
7/Some rover pictures appear, following close analysis, to show fossils.
There may be fossils on Mars; I hope there are. But we'd need to be very lucky to spot them in the rover pictures. Most of the examples given are utter crap.
8/Other statements - but from arguably less reliable sources talk about civilisations on Mars and even trips there
Talking about civilisations and trips is easy to do; sending probes is hard. The evidence that the probes have gathered does not support the existence of a civilisation there; if they are there they are well-hidden.
The media never focus on the discoveries of water and methane, and have repeated essentially the same stories every 4 years.
Perhaps he should read better media. The newsfeeds I read make a lot of noise about water and methane on Mars.
 

Mythopoeika

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More stuff!

Has Curiosity Found Fossilized Life on Mars?
Time and time again, as we carefully scrutinize the amazing high-resolution imagery flowing to Earth from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, we see weird things etched in Martian rocks. Most of the time our brains are playing tricks on us. At other times, however, those familiar rocky features can be interpreted as processes that also occur on Earth.

Now, in a paper published in the journal Astrobiology, a geobiologist has related structures photographed by Curiosity of Martian sedimentary rock with structures on Earth that are known to be created by microbial lifeforms. But just because the structures look like they’ve been formed by microbes on Mars, does it mean that they were?

More text and pix at link:

http://news.discovery.com/space/ali...sity-found-fossilized-life-on-mars-150106.htm

And this:

Potential Signs of Ancient Life in Mars Rover Photos
A careful study of images taken by the NASA rover Curiosity has revealed intriguing similarities between ancient sedimentary rocks on Mars and structures shaped by microbes on Earth. The findings suggest, but do not prove, that life may have existed earlier on the Red Planet.

The photos were taken as Curiosity drove through the Gillespie Lake outcrop in Yellowknife Bay, a dry lakebed that underwent seasonal flooding billions of years ago. Mars and Earth shared a similar early history. The Red Planet was a much warmer and wetter world back then.

More text and pix at link:

http://www.astrobio.net/news-exclusive/potential-signs-ancient-life-mars-rover-photos/
 

ramonmercado

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A new way of generating energy could potentially power human colonies on Mars, a new study claims. This is thanks to nothing more than dry ice, which is abundant on the red planet, according to recent research.

Since man wants to start colonizing the place within the next few decades, we need all the help we can get. This could also have profound implications on planning. For now, we’re only considering one-way trips, owing to huge energy demands. This could change.

The gist of the new energy theory proposed by a team of researchers from Northumbria, Edinburgh and Newcastle universities lies in carbon dioxide. Scientists say the principle is no different to what happens when you observe the effect of a drop of water on a scalding-hot stove. The energy generated by that process, which agitates the drop of water, is similar to the pioneering new approach, outlined in the journal Nature Communications ...

http://rt.com/news/238821-mars-energy-carbon-ice/
 

ramonmercado

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Antarctica's Blood Falls could be home to microorganisms similar to alien life on Mars. New data shows that beneath McMurdo Dry Valleys, earth’s coldest and driest place, lies salty water that may support previously unknown ecosystems.

This region is best known for the eerie Blood Falls, an outflow of an iron oxide-tainted plume of saltwater. Scientists previously thought that red algae gave this bloody ooze its dramatic color, but later it was proven to be due only to iron oxides.

Scientists have discovered that brines (salt solutions) form extensive aquifers below glaciers, lakes and within permanently frozen soil. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the brines may also play a major role in modern biological processes in the Dry Valleys, named so because of their extremely low humidity as well as lack of snow or ice cover. ...

http://rt.com/news/254005-salty-aquifer-glacier-antarctic/
 

ramonmercado

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Mars may appear to be dry and desolate, but the Red Planet can be surprisingly humid — perhaps humid enough to support life, some scientists say.

The moisture in the atmosphere ofMars could be particularly conducive to life if the water condenses out to form short-term puddles in the early morning hours.

"The conditions on Mars, where the relative humidity is high and the available water vapor is approximately 100 precipitable microns, is the equivalent of the drier parts of the Atacama Desert in Chile," John Rummel, of East Carolina University, told Space.com by email. [The Search for Life on Mars: A Photo Timeline] ...

http://www.space.com/29857-mars-humidity-alien-life.html?cmpid=514648
 

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Not the discovery that Life existed on Mars but its possible that the conditions for Life on Mars existed. Sort of. Much of a discovery?

New data gathered by the Mars Curiosity rover indicates a potential history of hydrothermal activity at Gale Crater on the red planet, broadening the variety of habitable conditions once present there, scientists report in a new study.

Researchers found concentrations of the elements zinc and germanium to be 10 to 100 times greater in sedimentary rocks in Gale Crater compared to the typical Martian crust.

Zinc and germanium tend to be enriched together in high temperature fluids and often occur together on Earth in hydrothermal deposits containing sulfur. The elevated concentrations of zinc and germanium in Gale Crater can potentially be explained by hydrothermal activity that occurred in the region, according to Jeff Berger, a geologist at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada and lead author of the new study published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Extreme thermal environments on Earth are home to a diverse array of microbial life adapted to these conditions, and these organisms may have been some of the first to evolve on Earth.

Evidence of possible hydrothermal activity has been found by other Mars rovers in other locations on the red planet and in Martian meteorite samples. Researchers have used computer simulations, laboratory experiments and investigation of hydrothermal sites on Earth to try to understand potential past hydrothermal activity on Mars.

Now with potential evidence for hydrothermal conditions once present inside or near Gale Crater, Curiosity's mission takes another step toward determining if there were favorable environmental conditions for microbial life on Mars, according to the study's authors. Hydrothermal deposits are more likely to preserve evidence of microbial life or its precursors, according to Berger.

"You have heat and chemical gradients … conditions favorable for the genesis and persistence life," Berger said. ...

https://phys.org/news/2017-08-elevated-zinc-germanium-bolster-evidence.html
 

hunck

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Scientists uncover the truth about strange shifting patterns on the surface of Mars

New research sheds light on the gullies that appear and then disappear on Mars's sand dunes

Strange seasonal patterns on the surface of Mars are made by freezing and melting of gas not water, a new study has found.

The Red Planet has gullies that appear and then disappear on its sand dunes - much like how water forms them on Earth.

But it is not water but rather carbon dioxide (CO2) sublimation, the process by which a substance changes from a solid to a gas without an intermediate liquid phase, which is responsible.

And it happens during Mars' winters, which are cold enough to freeze gas into blocks which then gouges out the patterns in the sand. Then, as Spring comes, the block "melts."

Its is a phenomena unlike anything seen on Earth, the study by Trinity College Dublin and Durham University said.

"Mars' atmosphere is composed of over 95% CO 2 , yet we know little about how it interacts with the surface of the planet.

"Mars has seasons, just like Earth, which means that in winter, a lot of the CO 2 in the atmosphere changes state from a gas to a solid and is deposited onto the surface in that form.

"The process is then reversed in the spring, as the ice sublimates, and this seasonal interplay may be a really important geomorphic process."
 

ramonmercado

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The potential for Life on Mars.

Two young worms are the first offspring in a Mars soil experiment at Wageningen University & Research. Biologist Wieger Wamelink found them in a Mars soil simulant that he obtained from NASA. At the start he only added adult worms. The experiments are crucial in the study that aims to determine whether people can keep themselves alive at the red planet by growing their own crops on Mars soils.


Young worm, born in mars soil simulant [Credit: Wieger Wamelink, WUR]
To feed future humans on Mars a sustainable closed agricultural ecosystem is a necessity. Worms will play a crucial role in this system as they break down and recycle dead organic matter. The poop and pee of the (human) Martian will also have to be used to fertilise the soil, but for practical and safety reasons we are presently using pig slurry. We have since been observing the growth of rucola (rocket) in Mars soil simulant provided by NASA to which worms and slurry have been added. 'Clearly the manure stimulated growth, especially in the Mars soil simulant, and we saw that the worms were active. However, the best surprise came at the end of the experiment when we found two young worms in the Mars soil simulant', said Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen University & Research.

Read more at https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blog...produce-in-mars-soil.html#TP1TOrfBtdyE0u8k.99
 

EnolaGaia

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It now appears that the 1970's-era Viking landers' instruments used to check for organic molecules may have inadvertently destroyed any organic compounds owing to the unexpected presence of a volatile compound in the Martian soil ...

NASA May Have Discovered and Then Destroyed Organics on Mars in 1976
Over 40 years ago, a NASA mission may have accidentally destroyed what would have been the first discovery of organic molecules on Mars, according to a report from New Scientist.

Recently, NASA caused quite a commotion when it announced that its Curiosity rover discovered organic molecules — which make up life as we know it — on Mars. This followed the first confirmation of organic molecules on Mars in 2014. But because small, carbon-rich meteorites so frequently pelt the Red Planet, scientists have suspected for decades that organics exist on Mars. But researchers were stunned in 1976, when NASA sent two Viking landers to Mars to search for organics for the first time and found absolutely none.

Scientists didn't know what to make of the Viking findings — how could there be no organics on Mars? "It was just completely unexpected and inconsistent with what we knew," Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, told New Scientist. [Viking 1: The Historic First Mars Landing in Pictures]

A possible explanation arose when NASA's Phoenix lander found perchlorate on Mars in 2008. This is a salt used to make fireworks on Earth; it becomes highly explosive under high temperatures. And while the surface of Mars isn't too warm, the main instrument aboard the Viking landers, the gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GCMS), had to heat the Martian soil samples to find organic molecules. And because perchlorate is in the soil, the instrument would have burned up any organics in the samples during this process.

The discovery of perchlorate reignited scientists' convictions that the Viking landers could have found organics on Mars. "You get some new insight, and you realize that everything you thought was wrong," McKay said. ...

FULL STORY: https://www.space.com/41140-mars-lander-may-have-burned-organics.html
 

ramonmercado

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Experiments show potential for Life on Mars.

SAN FRANCISCO — Salt-loving microbes can dry out and come back to life with just a little humidity, researchers have demonstrated for the first time.

Scientists have suspected that microbes in arid places may get their moisture from humidity alone, but no one has shown that dried-out microbes can revive with water sucked from the air. Dessicated Halomonas bacteria from Washington’s Hot Lake perked up and began growing again after absorbing humidity in a jar, astrobiologist Mark Schneegurt, of Wichita State University in Kansas, said June 21 at the ASM Microbe 2019 meeting. That discovery has implications for the search for life on other planets, and for preventing life from Earth from contaminating other worlds (SN: 1/20/18, p. 22).

Schneegurt and colleagues grew Halomonas bacteria in magnesium sulfate brines. Magnesium sulfate (also called Epsom salts) and perchlorates are the main types of salts found on Mars. Those salts don’t play keep-away with water molecules the way sodium salts do, so microbes have a better chance of snagging some moisture.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/dried-earth-microbes-could-grow-mars-just-little-humidity
 

EnolaGaia

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Gilbert Levin, who worked with the earliest Viking lander experiments designed to test for signs of life on Mars, remains adamant that we discovered evidence of biological Martian life in 1976 ...
I’m Convinced We Found Evidence of Life on Mars in the 1970s

The Labeled Release experiment on the Viking mission reported positive results, although most have dismissed them as inorganic chemical reactions

We humans can now peer back into the virtual origin of our universe. We have learned much about the laws of nature that control its seemingly infinite celestial bodies, their evolution, motions and possible fate. Yet, equally remarkable, we have no generally accepted information as to whether other life exists beyond us, or whether we are, as was Samuel Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, “alone, alone, all, all alone, alone on a wide wide sea!” We have made only one exploration to solve that primal mystery. I was fortunate to have participated in that historic adventure as experimenter of the Labeled Release (LR) life detection experiment on NASA’s spectacular Viking mission to Mars in 1976.

On July 30, 1976, the LR returned its initial results from Mars. Amazingly, they were positive. As the experiment progressed, a total of four positive results, supported by five varied controls, streamed down from the twin Viking spacecraft landed some 4,000 miles apart. The data curves signaled the detection of microbial respiration on the Red Planet. The curves from Mars were similar to those produced by LR tests of soils on Earth. It seemed we had answered that ultimate question.

When the Viking Molecular Analysis Experiment failed to detect organic matter, the essence of life, however, NASA concluded that the LR had found a substance mimicking life, but not life. Inexplicably, over the 43 years since Viking, none of NASA’s subsequent Mars landers has carried a life detection instrument to follow up on these exciting results. Instead the agency launched a series of missions to Mars to determine whether there was ever a habitat suitable for life and, if so, eventually to bring samples to Earth for biological examination. ...

FULL STORY: https://blogs.scientificamerican.co...-found-evidence-of-life-on-mars-in-the-1970s/
 

EnolaGaia

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After more recent inspection and analysis, a meteorite of Martian origin is now believed to contain organic compounds containing fixed nitrogen. This is the first evidence of nitrogen fixing having occurred on Mars.
Scientists Have Discovered Fixed Nitrogen in a Martian Meteorite For The First Time

A fresh new look at a 4 billion-year-old Martian meteorite has revealed organic compounds containing nitrogen - the first real evidence of fixed nitrogen molecules on the Red Planet.

Nitrogen is essential for all known forms of life, and while there's currently no evidence to suggest this discovery was created by some biological unit, it does leave open the possibility that once upon a time, Mars might have been a wet and organic-rich planet - a blue planet even - the perfect place for life to begin.

"Early in the Solar System's history, Mars was likely showered with significant amounts of organic matter, for example from carbon-rich meteorites, comets and dust particles," chemist Atsuko Kobayashi from the Tokyo Institute of Technology explains.

"Some of them may have dissolved in the brine and been trapped inside the carbonates."

It's hard to say how these nitrogen-bearing organics may have arisen, but regardless of the explanation, the results suggest Mars may have once been more Earth-like and hospitable to life than it is now - and could have once had its own nitrogen cycle.

"Whatever the origin, the presence of the organic and reduced nitrogen on early/middle Noachian Mars indicates the importance of Martian nitrogen cycle," the authors write.

The meteorite in question was blasted off Mars roughly 16 million years ago, probably by a meteorite impact, and has since survived unfathomable lengths of time and space.

Named ALH84001, it was found in Antarctica's Allan Hills in 1984 and has already become quite famous in the science world. It contains orange-coloured carbonate materials, which seem to have come from some sort of salty liquid on Mars, roughly 4 billion years ago.

Over the years, some scientists have claimed to find bacteria-like microbial fossils in this rock, but there are other non-biological explanations that could also account for their presence.

Martian meteorites are some of the best clues we have about the Red Planet's history, but since these rocks have landed on Earth, it's hard to say how much of them is still truly Martian.

Terrestrial contamination has been a serious problem in the past, but now, using new techniques and state of the art technology, researchers are confident the detected nitrogen-containing organics are "most likely of Martian origin". ...

FULL STORY: https://www.sciencealert.com/4-bill...ecules-containing-nitrogen-for-the-first-time
 

ramonmercado

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Maybe life but not as we know it?

Liquid brine can hang around on Mars’ surface, a new study suggests, but conditions may not be great for life as we know it.

That’s bad news for any Earth-based microorganisms determined to colonize the Red Planet, but good news for humans who don’t want to contaminate Mars with microbes hitching a ride on robot explorers.

Pure liquid water can’t last on Mars’ frigid surface. But mix in some salts, and H2O might stick around for a bit. NASA’s Curiosity and Phoenix landers have detected salts known as perchlorates in the Martian soil, and researchers have suggested that such salts might make transient brines possible (SN: 3/20/09).

No salty liquid water has been definitively found on Mars. But there have been hints of water dribbling out from underground (SN: 9/28/15), and a controversial report of a buried lake near the Red Planet’s south pole (SN: 12/17/18).

To learn more about how brines would behave in contemporary Martian conditions, Edgard Rivera-Valentín, a planetary scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, and colleagues ran computer simulations.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/mars-water-liquid-salty-brine-simulation-cold-life
 

GNC

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Going back to the start of this thread, anyone know what happened to the Martian meteorite from 20 years ago that was supposed to contain fossilised microbes and therefore "proof" of life on Mars? They went really quiet on that one.
 
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