Friday, January 16, 2009

Is Mars still alive?

According to a recent post on Science Daily, some scientists feel it is very likely. Why? According to the article:
  • A team of NASA and university scientists has achieved the first definitive detection of methane in the atmosphere of Mars. This discovery indicates the planet is either biologically or geologically active.
Scientists studied Mars over several Martian years with NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility and the W.M. Keck telescope, both at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Spectrograph analysis showed the distinct pattern for methane. This compound is rapidly destroyed in the Martian atmosphere, so it's presence indicates some ongoing process is releasing the gas.

Not enough is known about Mars' geology or the presence or absence of life to make a definitive theory on the source of methane. Researchers hope future missions, like NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, may help to discover the origin of Martian methane.


Dave Tackett said...

This is one of the more intriguing aspects about Mars. Either the planet is more geological active than though or their is microbial life. Either way, it's very interesting.

I'm always surprised at how many degrees of certainty there are. Methane was first discovered on Mars in 2004 by Mars Express as documented in The Real Mars by Michael Hanlon published late 2004 and Science magazine in March of 2004.

It's like the Phoenix discovery of water ice where everyone knew there was water ice. Every new NASA re-re-re-confirmation gets called a new discovery.

Beam Me Up said...

the re re phenom I took this as more of a confirmation of earlier data. It was so downplayed earlier that I got the impression that quite a few were questioning the data. but I know what you mean. Every time someone else studies the data they feel their results are unique. I have lost count of the number of times I have gone over BMU's archive to find to find articles that are for all intents copies of the newer "findings". It's not plagiaristic in nature, I am sure, nor really lazy but just an unwillingness to accept that someone else has bee here first?! lol

Dave Tackett said...

I wonder if because of how under-covered science is in the mainstream media that NASA and others have to make a big deal about each bit of evidence so that the big story gets even a fraction of the attention it deserves.

Beam Me Up said...

I am not sure I would put this in NASA's lap. Mainstream media's attention span is shockingly short. Another thing I have noticed to while doing this podcast. Sometimes it's months before what we talk about here reaches the public's awareness in whatever mangled form. Nasa of course is not completely off the hook, you're right. Every discovery is treated as if it's history changing but I am willing to bet this "everything old is new again" mentality is more of the media and less nasa. Thoughts?

David Tackett said...

Exactly! I wasn't trying to blame NASA - I was trying to say that they have to shout about every step in a discovery or else the MSM will completely miss the whole discovery.

You are completely right about the time delay, too. AP science headline yesterday "Science closing in on cloak of invisibility " - as Yogi Berra once said "It's deja vu all over again."

Beam Me Up said...

I see what you're saying and it really is dead on! The only way to be heard now above the Britney/Paris Entertainment tonight "news" is to start their own carnival of news. I guess I am going to have to stop taking my reader for granted. It cuts through all the mindless crap and finds only news that I want to read.