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Andrew Coates, from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey, UK, said: "The observation of short-lived, seasonally varying clouds of methane from specific regions on Mars is a tantalising result. It shows there must be an underground source, past or present." Dr Coates, who is not involved with the latest research, added: "Seasonal effects may open up fissures to allow increased escape into the atmosphere. But this could be a sign of either geology or biology. "Both are exciting; we will not be sure which it is until we can analyse the methane in-situ at the surface." Nasa's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, due to launch to the Red Planet in 2011, will carry instruments that have the potential to distinguish between carbon in gases produced by biological activity and those with a geochemical origin.
Originally posted by ziggystar60
I guess the only quite certain thing is that there must be liquid water on Mars, at least under ground. It seems liquid water is necessary for both geological and biological production of methane, if I have understood this right.
A radiolytic source of hydrogen (H2), when biologically or abiologically reacted with dissolved CO2 in pore water, could form subsurface methane and explain the presence of trace amounts of this gas on Mars today. Radiolytic hydrogen forms when radiation from the decay of naturally occurring radioactive elements strikes water molecules, turning them into hydrogen and oxygen.
Originally posted by Jay-in-AR
reply to post by Phage
There is water-ice around the poles, no?
Okay, is the internal temperature of the planet sufficient enough to melt water-ice?
Okay, is the crust of the planet porous, like Earth's?
If these conditions are met, as I'm sure they are, there is undoubtedly liquid water below the surface. Which is also why you don't see NASA talking of alternatives. The prerequisites, as we know them, for life are, in fact, met on Mars.
I love reading your posts, but you say nay to the end.
Originally posted by Phage
This makes me wonder about the timing for this conference. The data presented is at least a few years old. This could be a bid to increase the scope of the Mars Science Laboratory. Sounds good to me!
[edit on 1/15/2009 by Phage]
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 say.
In March, scientists announced the European Space Agency's Mars Express probe had found persistent traces of methane in the atmosphere of Mars. Methane can be produced in volcanic eruptions, but since there's no apparent volcanic activity on Mars, the methane was taken by some scientists to be a tantalizing sign of possible microbial activity.
The new lab work clouds that view, revealing that atmospheric methane may not be the useful "biomarker" some scientists had hoped for in the search for life at Mars or beyond our solar system.
"It reaffirms that the presence of methane on other planets -- such as the recent findings on methane in the Martian atmosphere -- is not necessarily indicative of life," said University of Toronto geologist and chemist Barbara Sherwood Lollar, who was not involved in either study.
The lab research is also a reminder that ET could be very hard to find, thriving inside a planet rather than on the surface. Chemically produced methane far underground could act as fuel "which deep subsurface microbial communities may access for energy and growth," Sherwood Lollar said in an e-mail interview.
Originally posted by Jay-in-AR
In my opinion, this pretty much confirms the, what was it, 1976 (probably not, as I'm going off of dead recognition here and don't wish to look it up) discovery of microbes in martian rock... First they said yes, then they said no.
The Viking landers carried nine courses of the Labeled Release experiment (LR) designed to detect any metabolizing microorganisms that
might be present on the martian surface. The LR was designed to drop a
nutrient solution of organic compounds labeled with radioactive carbon
atoms into a soil sample taken from the surface of Mars and placed into a
small test cell. A radiation detector then monitored over time for the evolution of radioactive gas from the sample as evidence of metabolism: namely, if microorganisms were metabolizing the nutrients they had been
given. When the experiment was conducted on both Viking landers, it gave
positive results almost immediately. The protocol called for a control in
the event of a positive response. Accordingly, duplicate soil samples were
inserted into fresh cells, heated for three hours at 160 ºC to sterilize them
(the control procedure established for all Viking biology experiments),
allowed to cool and then tested. These courses produced virtually no response, thus completing the pre-mission criteria for the detection of microbial life. All LR results support, or are consistent with, the presence of
living microorganisms. Yet between 1976 and late 2006 life on Mars remained a subject of debate.
The claim for life on Mars, in the form of Gillevinia straata, is grounded on old data reinterpreted as sufficient evidence of life, mainly by professors Gilbert Levin, Rafael Navarro-González and Ronalds Paepe.
The evidence supporting the existence of Gillevinia straata microorganisms relies on the data collected by the two Mars Viking landers that searched for biosignatures of life, but the analytical results were, officially, inconclusive.
In 2006, Mario Crocco, a neurobiologist at the Neuropsychiatric Hospital Borda in Buenos Aires, Argentina, proposed the creation of a new nomenclatural rank that classified these responses as 'metabolic' and therefore belonging to a form of life. Crocco proposed to create new biological ranking categories (taxa), in the new kingdom system of life, in order to be able to accommodate the genus of Martian microorganisms. Crocco proposed the following taxonomical entry:
Organic life system: Solaria
kingdom: Jakobia (named after neurobiologist Christfried Jakob)
Genus et species: Gillevinia straata