Methane Discovery Could Mean Life on Mars!!

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MissConstrue
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14 Feb 2009, 9:53 am

http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/space/01/1 ... index.html :alien:


Scientists have discovered methane in Mars' atmosphere, raising the possibility that life might exist on the planet.


Mars may be more active than previously believed, scientists say.

The methane could have come from past or present subsurface microorganisms, geological activity or comets striking the planet, scientists and NASA officials said. Scientists were not sure how long the methane has been on the planet.

Methane -- four atoms of hydrogen bound to a carbon atom -- is the main component of natural gas on Earth. It's of interest to astrobiologists because organisms release much of Earth's methane as they digest nutrients. Other purely geological processes, like oxidation of iron, also release methane.

"It's time, it's prudent that we begin to explore Mars looking for the possibility of a life form that's exhaling methane," said Lisa Pratt, professor of geological sciences at Indiana University, at a NASA news briefing Thursday.

The team found methane in the Martian atmosphere by carefully observing the planet through NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility and the W.M. Keck telescope, both at Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Using spectrometers on the telescopes to spread the light into its component colors, the team detected three spectral features, called absorption lines, that together are definitive fingerprints of methane.

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"Microbes that produced methane from hydrogen and carbon dioxide were one of the earliest forms of life on Earth," said Carl Pilcher, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, which partially supported the research. "If life ever existed on Mars, it's reasonable to think that its metabolism might have involved making methane from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide."

NASA's most recent Mars project -- the Phoenix Mars Lander mission -- came to an end in November after the solar-powered vehicle's batteries ran down as the result of a dust storm and the onset of Martian winter. Robotic instruments on the spacecraft collected and analyzed soil samples, looking for organic compounds that would indicate Mars is or was able to support life.

NASA officials had landed the vehicle on an arctic plain after satellite observations indicated there were vast quantities of frozen water in that area, most likely in the form of permafrost.

Scientists were able to verify the presence of water-ice in the Martian subsurface, find small concentrations of salts that could be nutrients for life, and observe snow descending from the clouds.


The lander also discovered a chemical in soil near Mars' north pole that is toxic to humans but conceivably could be used as an energy source by certain microbes. The lander's findings did not rule out the possibility that life once existed or even exists now, perhaps in a deep underground aquifer, NASA officials said.

NASA's next mission to the planet is the Mars Science Laboratory, a large, nuclear-powered rover with a suite of onboard scientific instruments. It is scheduled to launch in 2011 as part of NASA's long-term effort to study the early environmental history of Mars and assess whether the planet has ever been -- or still is -- able to sustain life.


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ForsakenEagle
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14 Feb 2009, 10:19 am

Yes, I have heard of this before. I hope we actually get to prove some of these theories soon. It seems the space age was killed off by politics, war, and the economy.



MrSinister
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14 Feb 2009, 11:24 am

So David Bowie WAS right! :P

In all seriousness, though, this is really cool news. At least now there can be no doubt that there is life elsewhere in the universe other than on this planet... which is a relief, since for the human race to be the only intelligent race in the galaxy (well, I use the term "intelligent" with reservations, considering what a mess we've made of the Earth...) would be a tremendous waste of space.


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Eggman
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14 Feb 2009, 10:03 pm

rock on martian mcrobes rock on


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ruennsheng
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14 Feb 2009, 11:20 pm

Hope Mars will be an escape from the dirty, polluted Earth when we inhabit the planet...



twoshots
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14 Feb 2009, 11:28 pm

Think I've heard about something like this before actually. Here's hoping they find something.


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nodice1996
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15 Feb 2009, 7:18 pm

HMMM... rusting causes methane. Mars is bright RED meaning iron. It would only need trace amounts of oxygen. Not enough for life. I t would also be hard for life to survive because of the temperature.


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15 Feb 2009, 9:36 pm

nodice1996 wrote:
HMMM... rusting causes methane. Mars is bright RED meaning iron. It would only need trace amounts of oxygen. Not enough for life. I t would also be hard for life to survive because of the temperature.


Furthermore, Jupiter,Saturn, Uranus,Neptune and Pluto all contain vast amounts of methane, but nobody construes this as evidence of life on these planets.


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Eggman
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15 Feb 2009, 9:41 pm

Fogman wrote:
nodice1996 wrote:
HMMM... rusting causes methane. Mars is bright RED meaning iron. It would only need trace amounts of oxygen. Not enough for life. I t would also be hard for life to survive because of the temperature.


Furthermore, Jupiter,Saturn, Uranus,Neptune and Pluto all contain vast amounts of methane, but nobody construes this as evidence of life on these planets.


It can be nice and cozy underground


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MissConstrue
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15 Feb 2009, 10:45 pm

ruennsheng wrote:
Hope Mars will be an escape from the dirty, polluted Earth when we inhabit the planet...


My thoughts exactly!! !!

I think we need to hurry before it's too late!


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twoshots
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16 Feb 2009, 12:44 am

Fogman wrote:
nodice1996 wrote:
HMMM... rusting causes methane. Mars is bright RED meaning iron. It would only need trace amounts of oxygen. Not enough for life. I t would also be hard for life to survive because of the temperature.


Furthermore, Jupiter,Saturn, Uranus,Neptune and Pluto all contain vast amounts of methane, but nobody construes this as evidence of life on these planets.

Right, but gas giants are much larger so they can retain methane without active production (which I don't think Mars can because its tiny.) Pluto derives its methane from methane ices, and Mars' temperature is much to hot for methane ice. Hence Mars requires an ongoing mechanism to produce the methane, and presumably in reporting this they are evaluating what mechanism it is that may be in play.


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16 Feb 2009, 12:54 am

ruennsheng wrote:
Hope Mars will be an escape from the dirty, polluted Earth when we inhabit the planet...


I doubt we're capable of polluting the Earth sufficiently that Mars would be nicer than Earth. Mars is a very hostile environment indeed, to the extent that Earth in the aftermath of a global nuclear war resulting in nuclear winter would probably seem like a paradise in comparison. We should really look after the planet we've got, because the other ones would take a tremendous amount of resources merely to terraform to a level of inhabitability comparable to a really screwed-up Earth.



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16 Feb 2009, 1:08 am

Arcanyn wrote:
ruennsheng wrote:
Hope Mars will be an escape from the dirty, polluted Earth when we inhabit the planet...


I doubt we're capable of polluting the Earth sufficiently that Mars would be nicer than Earth. Mars is a very hostile environment indeed, to the extent that Earth in the aftermath of a global nuclear war resulting in nuclear winter would probably seem like a paradise in comparison. We should really look after the planet we've got, because the other ones would take a tremendous amount of resources merely to terraform to a level of inhabitability comparable to a really screwed-up Earth.


not with that atitude!


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Arcanyn
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16 Feb 2009, 1:37 am

Attitude has nothing to do with it. It's a simply matter of physical reality. Earth just happens to be a lot more inhabitable than Mars, and even if you were to significantly decrease its level of habitability, Mars still wouldn't come close. Let's imagine, for instance, we do absolutely nothing about global warming. The polar icecaps melt, the sea levels rise substantially, there are more killer storms and bushfires, rainfall is diminished in a lot of areas, and many regions of previously farmable land becomes desert. Pretty bad, but at least we'd still have a breathable atmosphere, suitable gravity, water, conditions suitable for plants to grow, temperatures above the freezing point of water, etc, of which Mars has none of these things. You'd be pretty hard pressed to screw up the Earth sufficiently that Mars has better conditions - you'd have to completely change the composition of the atmosphere (and significantly reduce the amount of it), get rid of the oceans somehow, get rid of the magnetic field, kill all the plants and incinerate much of the surface. We'd probably have a hard time doing this even if we deliberately tried to screw up the planet as much as possible. It would be much easier to 'terraform' a heavily polluted Earth back to a less polluted state, than it would to terraform Mars to anything vaguely Earthlike, and as such it would be foolish to think of Mars as any kind of 'solution' to the pollution on Earth.



Tim_UK
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16 Feb 2009, 10:16 am

8O Cows on Mars!


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16 Feb 2009, 10:26 am

One third of Global warming is caused by cows - cattle farting.