Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Scientists: Life on Mars Likely

Filed under
Sci/Tech

Not so long ago it was unthinkable for respectable scientists to talk about life on Mars. Such talk was best left to X-Files fans. But no longer.

Evidence is building to suggest biological processes might be operating on the red planet, and life on Mars, many scientists believe, is now more a likelihood than merely a possibility.

Tantalizing evidence is accumulating that suggests the red planet is alive, but incontrovertible proof is still lacking. And while the European Space Agency is keen to send a lander to find it, a history of failed life-finding missions at NASA makes Americans more cautious.

"The life on Mars issue has recently undergone a paradigm shift," said Ian Wright, an astrobiologist at the Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute at the Open University in Britain, "to the extent now that one can talk about the possibility of present life on Mars without risking scientific suicide."

Much of the excitement is due to the work of Vittorio Formisano, head of research at Italy's Institute of Physics and Interplanetary Space.

In February, Formisano presented data at the Mars Express Science Conference at Noordwijk in the Netherlands. If scientists had been quietly excited before seeing Formisano's data, they were frenetic afterward.

Formisano showed evidence of the presence of formaldehyde in the atmosphere. Formaldehyde is a breakdown product of methane, which was already known to be present in the Martian atmosphere, so in itself its presence is not so surprising. But Formisano measured formaldehyde at 130 parts per billion.

To astrobiologists it was an incredible claim. It means huge amounts of methane must be produced on Mars. (While methane lasts for hundreds of years in the atmosphere, formaldehyde lasts for only 7.5 hours.) "It requires that 2.5 million tons of methane are produced a year," said Formisano.

"There are three possible scenarios to explain the quantities: chemistry at the surface, caused by solar radiation; chemistry deep in the planet, caused by geothermal or hydrothermal activity; or life," he added.

And, with no known geological source of formaldehyde on Mars, it's clear where Formisano's suspicions lie.

Full Story.

More in Tux Machines

Leaked videos, screenshots reveal an HTC One running Android Lollipop

No, you won’t get this gift in time for Christmas, but perhaps seeing an HTC One running Lollipop may make the wait slightly less painful. A batch of videos and screenshots show HTC’s flagship with the newest build of Android, though of course it’s merged with the Sense 6.0 user interface (the HTC One currently runs Sense 5.0). We got a small hint of how Lollipop looks on the One in November, but this leak lays out what the entire operating system makeover looks in clearer detail. Read more

The winning Linux kernel live patch: All of the above

Life's choices often amount to one of two options: Linux or Windows? Android or iOS? Kgraft or Kpatch? That last pair consists of the two major contenders for the technology Linux could use for live kernel patches. Now a winner is in, and it amounts to all of the above. According to a post on the official Linux kernel developer's mailing list, a kernel patching system that works with both Kgraft and Kpatch and uses "core functionality abstracted out of [those] already existing implementations" has been proposed as an addition to the Linux 3.20 kernel. Read more

UNIX Industry Banks on Linux Strategies

Struggling UNIX server makers are strengthening their Linux strategy in line with the open-source application environment. The move is aimed at maintaining remaining customers, since users are increasingly abandoning UNIX servers. However, it is receiving a lukewarm response from the market. According to industry sources on Dec. 22, server vendors such as IBM and HP are concentrating on the development of products so that the Linux operating system and related applications can be used as UNIX servers. Read more

Mageia Beta Delayed, Christmas Quiz, and 7 Best Alternatives

Today in Linux news the Mageia project announced another delay in version 5 Beta 2. The Linux Voice is running a Linux quiz for Christmas and Gary Newell offers up his list of the seven best alternative Linux distributions of the year. The Register says 2015 will be the year of Linux - on mobile. Three reviews need to be highlighted and, finally today, Matt Hartley says everyone should switch to Ubuntu MATE. Read more Also: Linux Bloat, Linux Lite, and Devuan Update