Water and Life on Mars?

Mars has certainly managed to make the news over the last week or so. ESA's Mars Express has released news of a possible frozen water sea on the surface of Mars at latitude 5° North and longitude 150° East. This uses data from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) to compare the 'blocky' structures with rafts of fragmented sea ice in the Antarctic. Using cratering statistics, the claim is that this area flooded only 5 million years ago. To stop the water/ice sublimating into the atmosphere, it is suggested that volcanic activity could have covered the ice in a layer of volcanic ash. Water has been found on Mars before but that was at the polar regions not so near to the equator.

This frozen sea has also thrown up a debate about the evidence for life on Mars (again). Vittorio Formisano, chief scientist for Mars Express's Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) announced that there are high methane levels above the frozen sea. Although methane can be produced by natural processes, it is easy to explain it by the presence of microbial life. Kenneth Nealson of the University of Southern California says that the detected level could also be produced by geological activity especially with all those volcanos in the region.

In a second claim for life on Mars, space.com claimed that two NASA scientists had found life on Mars. The story seems to have been made-up and Carol Stoker, one of the scientists attributed with the claim, is not happy about the fabricated article.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 24th Feb 2005 (13:24 UTC) | Permalink
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