Methane concentrations on Mars change with the seasons as well as location, and the gas disappears within a Martian year, according to a new study by Italian scientists. The finding, developed over five Earth years using NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, adds to the ongoing debate about the nature of CH4 on Mars.
The building blocks of life might exist in Martian soil after all, according to a new study. Evidence from the late Phoenix Mars lander suggests its Viking forebears might have found organic compounds on the Red Planet — and destroyed them in the process of looking for them.
If this is true, it represents a monumental shift in the way scientists have thought about Mars for the past 30 years. The presence of native Martian organics suggests the planet might not be a dead rock after all.
Many of life's building blocks, such as amino acids, sugars and other molecules, are chiral -- meaning they come in two identical forms, mirror images of each other. Most life on Earth tends to prefer one side over the other, such as right-handed glucose molecules. But some forms of bacteria are less choosy.
Most life is left-handed, but its lower forms are ambidextrous, according to a new study reported in New Scientist. This might complicate the search for life on other planets, but it could also explain the Viking Mars landers' odd findings four decades ago.
Not since RoboCop has being a cyborg seemed so very cool. University of Chicago geoscientists are developing an artificial intelligence system that future Mars explorers could incorporate into their spacesuits to help them recognize signs of life on Mars' barren surface.
Earthly organisms undergo tests in Mars-like conditions
By Reinhard KarglPosted 11.02.2009 at 10:39 am 6 Comments
In a Berlin basement sits a small torture chamber. The air inside the hermetically sealed steel chest consists of a choking 95 percent carbon dioxide, some nitrogen, and traces of oxygen and argon. The pressure within is 1/170 that on Earth, and the thermostat is set to –50˚F—in other words, a nice afternoon on Mars. Experiments at the facility regularly subject some of Earth’s hardiest creatures to this hell, and they do just fine.
Nearly four billion years ago, the Earth was pummeled by asteroids -- some as large as the state of Kansas -- during an episode known as the "Late Heavy Bombardment." Now, scientists believe that bombardment phase may have jump-started early microbial life. The results also lend support to the possibility of extreme microbial life on other planets like Mars, and perhaps even on Earth-like planets in other solar systems that may have undergone similar bombardment phases.
More than 30 years ago, images of the Martian surface taken by the Viking mission orbiters revealed unusual apron-shaped sloping areas at the base of taller geographical features. Researchers analyzing the Viking data puzzled over the features, called lobate debris aprons, which only occurred in the mid-latitude regions of Mars.
The shape of the debris aprons, and the fact that they only occurred in the temperate zone, caused researchers to speculate that they might contain large amounts of water ice. Now, thanks to dramatic improvements in remote sensing technology, that speculation has turned to near certainty.