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Originally posted by PhloydPhan
Links to the Mars Anomaly Research site aside, it is worth pointing out that there's no - repeat, NO - conclusive evidence of there actually being geysers on Mars. None.
Furthermore, he says winds should spread water vapour through the atmosphere too quickly for it to be concentrated in certain spots. "It would take a tremendous source of water in the surface to pump water into the atmosphere faster than it would be redistributed," he says.
Krasnopolsky, standing by his methane detection, says winds should spread the trace amounts of methane around too. He believes the methane he detected is produced by bacteria that live in "oases" where liquid water can exist - however briefly - on the Martian surface, due to heating by sunlight or by a hydrothermal source.
He argues that a non-biological source of methane is unlikely because crater-counting methods suggest no surface lava on Mars is younger than 10 million years old.
But he will not rule out the possibility that underground bubbles of methane from ancient volcanism might somehow be brought to the surface to replenish the atmosphere.
This has been batted around a few times, most recently in this thread authored by mikesingh. Geysers require volcanism, and there's no evidence Mars currently experiences any sort of volcanism. Beyond that minor detail....
Europe’s first and on-going mission to Mars has spotted signs of very recent volcanic activity along with the vestiges of glaciers and gigantic waterfalls. Given these and other findings from the Mars orbiting spacecraft, it is not unreasonable to suggest that life on Mars not only emerged but could have survived to the present in underground niches.
The latest in Mars Express data and what’s ahead for the mission is being shared between some 1,500 space scientists attending the 36th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, held here March 14-18 and co-sponsored by the Lunar and Planetary Institute and NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
"Clearly, thanks to the instruments on Mars Express, we are seeing a new Mars … a Mars that we didn’t expect," said Bernard Foing, Chief Scientist of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Science Program. "We have found evidence of recent volcanism, which is yesterday in the scale of martian history, as well as very recent glacial activity and ice deposits."
There is no doubt in Mumma’s mind that something is going on at Mars. "Mars was wet…was it also alive…or is it now alive?"
But "alive" could be geologically alive and not necessarily biologically alive, Mumma said.
"Or Mars could be biologically alive," he added. "Or maybe both. So to me that’s the real issue. Now we think that Mars is not a dead planet. Even if it’s just geology that is occurring and releasing this methane…that’s pretty darn interesting. And the geologists are very excited about this prospect."
"The three papers provide an overwhelming case for new thinking about recent geological activity on Mars," writes Baker in an analysis of the work.
Baker said the findings support a 1991 hypothesis, then considered outrageous, that Mars has experienced episodes of cataclysmic flooding in modern times. Water is thought to have formed temporary seas, but researchers had long assumed it all evaporated into the thin Martian air.
Many scientists now agree that much of the water remained.
One unexpected finding was the Moessbauer spectrometer's detection of a mineral called olivine, which does not survive weathering well. This spectrometer identifies different types of iron-containing minerals; scientists believe many of the minerals on Mars contain iron. "This soil contains a mixture of minerals, and each mineral has its own distinctive Moessbauer pattern, like a fingerprint," said Dr. Goestar Klingelhoefer of Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany, lead scientist for this instrument.
The lack of weathering suggested by the presence of olivine might be evidence that the soil particles are finely ground volcanic material, Squyres said. Another possible explanation is that the soil layer where the measurements were taken is extremely thin, and the olivine is actually in a rock under the soil.
Scientists were also surprised by how little the soil was disturbed when Spirit's robotic arm pressed the Moessbauer spectrometer's contact plate directly onto the patch being examined. Microscopic images from before and after that pressing showed almost no change. "I thought it would scrunch down the soil particles," Squyres said. "Nothing collapsed. What is holding these grains together?"
Methane -- which can be created naturally by volcanic eruptions or produced by primitive life -- thus may be a missing piece of the puzzle to finding out if organic remnants might once have sustained a primordial Mars. The last period of active volcanism on Mars is well before the last 300 years that methane can survive in the martian atmosphere of today.
University of Buffalo volcanologist, Tracy Gregg, told Astrobiology Magazine, "the youngest surficial activity discovered to date (and it's probably 1 million years old, which would be considered quite young, and possibly "active" on Mars) is in a region that contains no large volcanic structures of any kind." Mars' gigantic volcano Mons Olympus was active until 100 million years ago.
James Garvin, NASA chief scientist for Mars and the moon, in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
There is far more evidence, Garvin continued, for the possibility of recent, highly localized volcanism — such as fumaroles or local hydrothermal vents — than for anything to do with subsurface microbial systems.
"If you were to ask me, any methane we may be seeing must be volcanogenic on the basis of what scant real scientific evidence we have ... or it could even be some sort of ‘oddball’ result of asteroidal impact that we have not fully understood," Garvin speculated.
Looking to the future, Garvin pointed to the launchings of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2005, the Phoenix lander in 2007, and the wheeled Mars Science Laboratory in 2009.
Natural gas is a fossil fuel, making the existence of natural gas on Mars problematic, as there's no evidence that life EVER existed on Mars - and that life would have had to die, and die in such a way that made the formation of natural gas likely. Maybe there was once life on Mars, and maybe some of that life decayed into natural gas when it died, and maybe that gas is now being emitted by geysers - but that's a lot of maybes.
“The first thing to understand is how exactly the methane is distributed in the Martian atmosphere,” says Vittorio Formisano, Principal Investigator for the PFS instrument. “Since the methane presence is so small, we need to take more measurements. Only then will we have enough data to make a statistical analysis and understand whether there are regions of the atmosphere where methane is more concentrated.”
Once this is done, scientists will try to establish a link between the planet-wide distribution of methane and possible atmospheric or surface processes that may produce it. “Based on our experience on Earth, the methane production could be linked to volcanic or hydro-thermal activity on Mars. The High Resolution Stereo camera (HRSC) on Mars Express could help us identify visible activity, if it exists, on the surface of the planet”, continues Formisano. Clearly, if it was the case, this would imply a very important consequence, as present volcanic activity had never been detected so far on Mars.
Other hypotheses could also be considered. On Earth, methane is a by-product of biological activity, such as fermentation. “If we have to exclude the volcanic hypothesis, we could still consider the possibility of life,” concludes Formisano.
At the same meeting, NASA's Planetary Protection Officer, John Rummel, described the alternative explanations: "methane in the atmosphere...is a detection from the planetary Fourier spectrometer. ESA, the European Space Agency, has put out an announcement that it's been detected at 10 to 20 parts per billion. Well, methane in the atmosphere on Mars can mean one of three things: either vulcanism, possibly microbial life, or maybe cows. We haven't seen the cows yet. I doubt that we'll find them. But one of the other two would be a very interesting thing to find out."
"I stand before you and tell you, quite honestly, I'm shocked by these results," said Michael Mumma, an astrobiologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
Mumma and colleagues discovered unusually high levels of methane at two places in Mars' atmosphere: above the Hellas Basin, a giant impact scar in Mars' southern hemisphere, and Valles Marineris, the great canyon system near the Martian equator.
Methane is a gas that, on Earth, is produced naturally by plants and animals, such as in wetlands and in the stomachs of cows. On Mars, methane is much rarer. It isn't produced in the atmosphere and likely would be destroyed there by chemical reactions within a few hundred years.
So finding methane in the atmosphere suggests that something on Mars' surface is producing it, Mumma said. The question is whether that something is alive.
Formisano showed evidence of the presence of formaldehyde in the atmosphere. Formaldehyde is a breakdown product of methane, which was already known to be present in the Martian atmosphere, so in itself its presence is not so surprising. But Formisano measured formaldehyde at 130 parts per billion.
To astrobiologists it was an incredible claim. It means huge amounts of methane must be produced on Mars. (While methane lasts for hundreds of years in the atmosphere, formaldehyde lasts for only 7.5 hours.) "It requires that 2.5 million tons of methane are produced a year," said Formisano.
"There are three possible scenarios to explain the quantities: chemistry at the surface, caused by solar radiation; chemistry deep in the planet, caused by geothermal or hydrothermal activity; or life," he added.
And, with no known geological source of formaldehyde on Mars, it's clear where Formisano's suspicions lie.
"I believe there is extremely high probability that microbial subsurface life exists on Mars," he said, while acknowledging that although he believes in Martian life, he can't yet prove it.
BOULDER, Colorado – Evidence for intense local enhancements in methane on Mars has been bolstered by ground-based observations. The methane, as well as water on Mars, was detected using state-of-the-art infrared spectrometers stationed atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii and in Cerro Pachón, Chile.
Scientific teams around the globe are on the trail of methane seeping out of Mars. And for good reason: The methane could be the result of biological processes. It could also be an "abiotic" geochemical process, however, or the result of volcanic or hydrothermal activity on the red planet.
Many types of microbes here on Earth produce a signature of methane. Indeed, the tiny fraction of atmospheric carbon found as methane on our planet is churned out almost entirely biologically with only a very small contribution from abiotic processes, scientists sa
A European space probe has found evidence for large blocks of water ice just beneath the Martian surface in relatively warm conditions near the equator.
The frozen sea of sorts, if follow-up studies confirm it, would be the first large quantity of water ice on Mars confirmed to exist near the equator, researchers say. And it would be a good place to search for present life.
"This is a historic moment for Mars exploration when a previously neglected region reveals its secrets," Jan-Peter Muller of the University College London said in a statement today. "Speculations that this area might have water close to the surface have been shown to be correct."
The findings could be important for biology, Muller and his colleagues say.
"Higher levels of methane over the same area mean that primitive micro-organisms might survive on Mars today," the statement reads.
Not since the twin Viking Landers set down on the surface of Mars over 24 years ago, has NASA included a biologist, paleontologist, or ichnologist (study of trace fossils) on any of its missions.
Viking was unique as the first spacecraft to land and search for life on another planet. As such, the Viking program enlisted the talents of three Principal Biology Investigators, a Biology Team Leader and co-experimenters.
Perhaps because of the limited spectral rage of the IR filters employed in their search, the rational was that the Mars Pathfinder IMP camera would only be able to register the most blatant signs of chlorophyll if it were indeed on Mars. No one on the Mars Pathfinder team realistically expected them to find chlorophyll, but yet, something was detected. In 1999, I had an opportunity to conduct an experiment of my own regarding how geologists interpret their findings. Last June, the University of Buffalo, was host to the Second Mars Surveyor Landing Site Workshop.
The spots they found were 20 percent brighter in the infrared. Smith had told ABC News in an interview that he was not fully aware how to interpret it.
The fact is, Drs. Smith and Maki were not qualified to make the judgment regarding a biological interpretation of the IMP data and Smith's comments to ABC News demonstrate this. The point is both Dr. Peter Smith, and Dr. Justin Maki are excellent scientists in their fields, but why leave something as an important as the search for life on Mars to scientists who are not qualified to make a biological assessment?
I'm assuming from your post, Low Orbit, that you're considering using a turbine to power some sort of "air miner" which would collect potentially useful gases. Even assuming those gases exist, your concept is going to have a couple of significant problems:
1) Average air pressure on Mars is quite low - between 6 and 7 millibars. Average air pressure on Earth, at sea level, is about 1 bar (1000 millibars), or ~142 times more than on Mars. Even allowing that any output from a hypothetical geyser is going to be far greater than the average planetary air pressure, you're still dealing with a very low-pressure system. Any turbine would need a super-lightweight blade assembly and very low-friction bearings, transmission, etc. to produce any significant power in such a setup.
2) Geothermal power tends to be corrosive as all....well, it's pretty corrosive. Maintainance at geothermal power plants is very intensive. It's something to keep in mind if you're considering using such systems on Mars - where they'd be called areothermal power systems, actually.
Even if there were geysers on Mars - and useful gases to harvest from those geysers - it probably wouldn't be worth the trouble.
Quoted from www.spacedaily.com... , StellarX's first linked source:
University of Buffalo volcanologist, Tracy Gregg, told Astrobiology Magazine, "the youngest surficial activity discovered to date (and it's probably 1 million years old, which would be considered quite young, and possibly "active" on Mars) is in a region that contains no large volcanic structures of any kind."
Quoted from StellarX:
I am no expert but would the turbine not function rather well with such relative low air pressure in general but relative far higher pressures above these geysers? Could the almost explosive evaporation into the less dense atmosphere not be utilized as driving mechanism?
Quoted from StellarX:
Luckily most governments are already aware of how to build vacuum energy extractors so i know power generation will not be the problem on Mars or are one here on Earth.
Quoted from StellarX:
I don't like pessimist much...
Originally posted by PhloydPhan
Oh for crying out loud...
StellarX, if you'd bothered to read your own source material you'd know that
We don't know of any volcanism on Mars more recent than 1 million years ago.
You should also know that Natural Gas and Methane are not the same thing.
Yes, the primary ingredient of Natural Gas is Methane, but they're not the same thing.
Low Orbit was asking about Natural Gas - which is a fossil fuel, which would require life.
And we have no proof of life on Mars.
It isn't only a question of how explosive a hypothetical Martian geyser is, it is an issue of pressure: how dense is the steam/water combination welling up from this "geyser"? Martian gravity and air density are both lower than on Earth, meaning that you could have a very visually impressive geyser with much lower steam pressure than geysers on Earth. Also, how often does your geyser erupt?
Old Faithful erupts for anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes out of every ~80 minutes - not a very reliable source of power.
I didn't say any of Low Orbit's ideas were patently impossible; I did say that some (Natural Gas) were unlikely and that others (Areothermal power) were impractical.
Uh-huh. Vacuum energy, major conspiracy, most of the world's governments involved. Got it. *rolls eyes*
And I don't like people who willfully mis-interpret my statements
and their own source material for the sake of making outrageous claims...