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HAVE they found poo on the Red Planet?
Space websites around the world are abuzz with speculation about what NASA's latest Mars probe may have found.
The excitement has been triggered by a report in the journal Aviation Week that the space agency alerted the White House to "major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the 'potential for life' ".
Jon Clarke, a geologist with Mars Society Australia, a group dedicated to Martian exploration, said the report had triggered a frenzy of interest.
Rumblings in the media suggest some intriguing findings from NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander mission that relate to the question of life, specifically whether it could have survived on Mars in the past.
The issue bubbled up when it was reported Friday that some interesting results from Phoenix's wet chemistry laboratory, part of the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA) suite of instruments, were mentioned in a White House briefing.
Not so, says Phoenix principal investigator Peter Smith, of the University of Arizona, who denied that any details of the MECA findings had been shared and called the reports "bogus and damaging information."
"We are attempting to assess the chemicals and minerals that make up the soil composition," he explained. "We are now about half way through the process and there are several conflicting points of view. This is not a good time to go public with half the story."
But the magazine did not say it was life that had been discovered but evidence relating to the planet's "habitability".
Aviation Week strongly hinted that an announcement, which it said could be made next month, would be far more dramatic than last week's news that Phoenix had confirmed there is water ice on the planet.
Dr Clarke said the predicted announcement "obviously … has to be bigger than the asparagus [announcement]". But it "could all be a storm in a tea cup". Just in case, "our ears are perked. We can't wait."