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

Ubuntu Devs Willing to Work on GNOME Software to Replace Ubuntu Software Center

The Ubuntu Software Center managed to be the center of news stories after the Ubuntu MATE project decided to ditch it as default (still available in the repos), and discussions about a possible replacement in the regular Ubuntu desktop have started once more. Read more

FreeBSD 10.2 Release Candidate 2 Adds Better Hyper-V Support on Windows Server 2012

While not a GNU/Linux operating system, FreeBSD is an imperative open-source project, the most acclaimed BSD distribution on the market. Today, we announce the availability for download and testing of the second RC (Release Candidate) version of FreeBSD 10.2. Read more

Debian-Based Clonezilla Live 2.4.2-29 Is Out with Partclone 0.2.81 and Lots of Bugfixes

On the first day of August 2015, Steven Shiau has released a new testing version of his popular Clonezilla Live CD, which can be used for disk cloning and imaging operations, version 2.4.2-29. Read more

Arch Linux-Based BlackArch Penetration Testing Distro Now Using Linux Kernel 4.1 LTS

The development team behind the BlackArch project, a GNU/Linux distribution derived from Arch Linux and designed to be used for penetration testing and security analysis operations, released an updated installation media, BlackArch 2015.07.31. Read more