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More Mars Rover Biology...

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posted on Dec, 22 2006 @ 09:49 AM
Hi guys, been watching this site for a while. Glad to be aboard!

I was on the JPL rover site poking around and found another intriguing rover pic. This is from Spirits pan-cam, sol 1050.

This pic appears to be of a moss/lichen covered rock with 2 insect like life-forms:

The first insectoid life-form is in the upper-left of the frame, appearing almost like a terrestrial butterfly. It exhibits bilateral symmetry which is a hallmark of Biological systems. It's coloring is also symmetrical and it appears to NOT be a native part of the rock surface.

The second apparant insectoid life-form is in the mid-right of the frame and resembles the letter "Y". Perhaps this is the same type of "insect" seen in the upper part of the frame. Again, coloring/spotting pattern and morphology is bilaterally symmetric, suggesting an autonomous biological organism.

I assume these images from sol 1050 cover a full daytime cyle?... Would help make sense of the apparant wash-out of detail in the middle set of pics.

Oh btw I thought this would be the best section to post this, if It needs to be moved please take the liberty

posted on Dec, 22 2006 @ 10:20 AM
While you certainly seem to know your biology/ zoology, which I do not. (As in being able to talk about bilateral symmetry and such topics that I will just shut my lip on for a complete lack of knowledge.)

But regarding the "moss/lichen" to me it seems like a raised elevation that is creating the color differential, not plant growth. The pictures being in B&W leave everything up to subjective interpretation unfortunately.

Welcome to the boards also Saucer, hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

posted on Dec, 22 2006 @ 10:34 AM
thanks. Yeah My degree is in Bio so I can get a bit geeky with terminology sometimes

I agree with b/w imaging it's hard to tell... I am a proponent of the "lichen on Mars" hypothesis, but try not to see it everywhere I look. The softness of the boarders and the distribution of the "lichen/moss" organism vs the rock substrate was what flagged me. But again, without color it's really tough.

I find it interesting that my supposed "insects" looked so different under (an assumed) higher sun angle. It looks to me like the contrast blasted away any detail. My objection to my insect hypothesis is that they seem to never move (if these images do truely span a full Martian day
).... of course I shouldn't assume anything about supposed non-terrestrial insect behavior or movement patterns.

Is it normal for the rover team to stare at a single rock feature for a whole day?...

posted on Dec, 24 2006 @ 12:02 AM
Well by Rover Team, I hope you mean un-manned, we haven't sent our boys to Mars yet. Like I said I am not a Science guy, but I would think it as SOP for NASA to take pictures of a certain area for quite a long time simply for image resolution sake.

posted on Dec, 24 2006 @ 06:50 AM
The Y-shape looks like a crack to me, and the 'butterfly' looks like a rock embedded in the sand. Sorry dude, but I think that you are putting too much into it.

And winged-'insects' like that, would probably have a very rough time in Mars' windy environment anyway.

posted on Dec, 24 2006 @ 07:24 AM
Things to consider:
Life does not have to be bilaterally symmetrical and we know this from studying Earth based life. Starfish are one good example. Ever see those Book ends where they split a rock in two and then polish the surfaces? Cool huh. Amazing how both halves have the same geological pattern. Does that make them alive because both sides are symmetrical?

That is a mighty small set of wings you see there. How would wings that small even work in the rarefied atmosphere of Mars? Umm...They wouldn't. The surface pressure on Mars is only about 0.7% of the average surface pressure at sea level on Earth. With such low pressures, small wings would get no purchase and would be totally useless. If you remember, they have to use huge parachutes to even moderately slow down the landers due to lack of air pressure. Wings would have to be gigantic in relation to the body size of that "bug."

As you must recall Lichens are Photobionts and as such I would suggest that on Mars we would also have to see other indications of Algae and fungus. Thus far no indications that they exist elsewhere have been noted. I do hold out hope for Algaes, but the data isnt there yet to support my hopes. Lichens also "weather" the rocks leaving tell tale patterns. You can often see the swirls left behind on rocks from this weathering here on Earth. It is such a problem that on Mount Rushmore they have a team of climbers whose job is to remove lichens regularly to prevent damage to the rock face. There has been numerous photos taken of the geology of Mars and thus far there seems to be no indication of "weathering" patterns due to lichens.

The Panocam is not the Rovers only piece of equipment. A Spectrometer determines mineral makeup and Thermal imaging with spectroscopy is used as well. This is a photo for general use and does not include all of the information available. Lichens would immediately show up with this data and it would be front page news.

Finally I will leave you with this: "Any photo requiring equal parts interpretation and imagination (photos sometimes characterized as ‘blobsquatches’) should be discounted."*

posted on Dec, 24 2006 @ 08:32 AM

Originally posted by Saucerfreak2012
I agree with b/w imaging it's hard to tell... I am a proponent of the "lichen on Mars" hypothesis, but try not to see it everywhere I look. The softness of the boarders and the distribution of the "lichen/moss" organism vs the rock substrate was what flagged me. But again, without color it's really

Here you have a colour version made with the photos from the 4, 5 and 6 filters, the ones that correspond to the Red, Green and Blue.

This was made using the information in this page.

And, as you can see, the "butterfly" is not symmetric.

[edit on 24/12/2006 by ArMaP]

posted on Dec, 27 2006 @ 02:35 PM
Thanks for the feedback fellas.
Bap: yeah by Rover Team I mean the guys (on Terra) at JPL. Maybe if we can shrink our guys enough they can hitch a ride on Mars Science Lab in 2k9.

Thain: Actually I didn't put too much into it. So I'm not heartbroken my insect hypothesis has been discounted. I agree, considering the temps and pressures a flying insect would be very impractical biomechanically on Mars (not to mention the lack of O2 would make a fast, aerobic metabolism highly improbable). I'm truely much more interested in the potential for microbial vs lichen and/or algae on rock substrate and in (probably very saline) subsurface aquifers.

Terapin: I said bilat symmetry is a hallmark (A conspicuous feature or characteristic) of Biology, not a requirement. And yes, starfish ARE bilatteraly symmetrical, (I'll give you a minute to draw a picture...). The rock "analogy" is really just plain silly. A rock isn't a biological system to begin with, so your clever comparison is just pointless and completely out of context.

I agree about the size of wings in a rarified environment. Considering I never mention wings as such in my initial post, I find it interesting that you feel the need to school me about them. If you find the phrase "appearing almost like a terrestrial butterfly" to be synonomous with the phrase "bejeezers, I see wings on dem-der Martian butterflies!" you'd be incorrect.

btw Lichen are a symbiotic organism with only one partner being a photobiont, the other partner being a fungus. As for lichen and algae my hopes lean more toward a chemosynthetic autotroph able to reduce (chemically speaking) the abundant supply of CO2 in the atmosphere to CH4. As an apparant expert I'm sure you're aware of the methane recently (2004) observed in the Martian atmosphere. Perhaps such a reducing organism is responsible for the persistance of this background CH4?

"The Panocam is not the Rovers only piece of equipment. A Spectrometer determines mineral makeup and Thermal imaging with spectroscopy is used as well." Um, whoever argued about the instruments or their capabilities?

"Lichens would immediately show up with this data..." No, they wouldn't. Organics are not going to be decisively detected with ANY of the science payloads aboard EITHER rover, only the relative mineralogy of rocks and soils via the Mini-TES. The Mössbauer Spectrometer, don't think so. So how bout the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer?.... not gonna do it. The only instrument which would be helpful is the The Microscopic Imager and (maybe) the rock abrasion tool. Most of these instruments might possibly be able to detect local anomalous deviations in expected mineral deposition which may remotely be related to Biological processes, but NO ONE at JPL or NASA is going to say "Hey, this is front page news!"

".... and it would be front page news. " (see above) and you do know the 1976 Viking Labeled Release life detection experiment found living microorganisms in the soil of Mars right? Somehow that didn't make the front page. Even Clinton announcing (the hotly contested) "martian meteorite microbes" in August '96 on national Prime-Time news barely made a stir. So there ya go,.... Front page news hardly.

forgot armap!!!! sorry, groovy picture. I'll check it out more when I get home from work

[edit on 27-12-2006 by Saucerfreak2012]

posted on Dec, 28 2006 @ 01:13 PM
Careful ArMaP,

Your bue/green/red filtered picture now looks like the rocky edge of a little pool.

I'M NOT saying that's what it is (it's obvious that it isn't, especially when one see's the original BW photo), but there are many people on these boards that will say otherwise, citing that photo as proof!

posted on Dec, 28 2006 @ 03:11 PM
No problem, I am allready accustomed to discussions about photos.

But thanks for the warning.

posted on Dec, 28 2006 @ 05:53 PM
Err Starfish, or Sea Stars, exhibit Radial Symmetry not Bilateral. An organism with Radial symmetry exhibits no left or right sides. They have a dorsal and ventral side, or top and bottom. Some plants also exhibit radial symmetry including Daffodils. Check Wikipedia for more. Claiming apparent bilateral symmetry in a photo as evidence, is just like claiming bilateral imagery in a split rock is evidence of life. The analogy is as foolish as the assumption.

I have yet to see any credible scientist claim that the Viking experiments "found living microorganisms in the soil of Mars" as you put it. Here is an excerpt from a recent article on the subject with comments of one of the original scientists involved.
-"The results from Vikings’ onboard experiments are confusing because some tests suggested the presence of organisms capable of digesting organic molecules. But a gas-chromatograph mass spectrometer (GCMS) found nothing when the soil was heated to release organic molecules, causing most scientists to doubt the results of the life-detection tests. Instead they put the soil reactivity down to the presence of peroxides or other reactive substances. Gilbert Levin, one of the Viking scientists who has long argued that the GCMS test was flawed, told New Scientist that the new study provides "strong support" to the idea that life was indeed detected on Mars." - New Scientist News source, October 2006

What they found was a reaction that could have indicated biological activity, except the supporting data was contraindicating. Strong support at best but far different from finding actual microorganisms.

Prior to NASA's deployment of the two rovers currently working on Mars, a team of scientists, using the same Mass Spectrometers used on both Rovers, took chemical images of microbes and rocks under conditions close to what would be found on Mars. They also developed Fuzzy Logic algorithms to help decipher those spectral pictures. The key to finding life with such a method is that all life must somehow change their environment as they breath and eat. Prior to their arrival, I worked on a Mars Rover related project that involved NASA and JPL. According to the people I have worked with from NASA, they claim that they could indeed tell if what they were looking at was a rock or a lichen.

For me, every image coming down from Mars is an amazing accomplishment and a joy to behold. I still hold out hope for finding life on Mars and elsewhere. Unfortunately, what I have seen here on ATS is many people making unsupported claims simply because they think they see something that looks like something to them. Each and every image NASA collects is gone over by teams of scientists and while they could very well indeed miss something, thus far, I haven't seen anything here on ATS that is more than wonderful formations of the Aeolian landscape.

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