Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Life on Mars"

Hi readers

A beautiful 22 degree Celsius Spring day here in Adelaide. I have a day off and have just been for a walk around my local wetland system. Lots of green grass, gum trees and bird life.

The discovery of life on another planet within our solar system would enhance the possibility of extraterrestrials, by showing that life arose somewhere else besides Earth.

The topic for today's post is "Life on Mars." I came across an article in "Australasian Science" magazine, Volume 31 Number 7. The Sep/Oct 2010 edition pp180-19. By Morris Jones.

In 1966 an Antarctic meteorite, labelled ALH84001 was shown to have gas bubbles in it, which "...matched Viking data on the Martian atmosphere, leading to few doubts about the origin of the meteorite." (p.18.)

Some NASA scientists sated that "...the meteorite contained evidence of fossilised microorganisms..." Debate raged on several lines of evidence cited by these scientists and the consensus was that the evidence was insufficient. Extensive study reduced the evidence "..to one line of evidence. That was the suggestion that the magnetite crystals might be biogenic."

Jones' article then goes on to report on two recent scientific papers by some of the 1996 study NASA scientists. He cites comments by Australian Professor Malcolm Walter, Director of the Australian centre for Astrobiology at the University of New South Wales. (For more on Walter click here.) Walter is an expert "...in the development of early microbial life on Earth..." Walter's views are that the two papers do not strengthen the magnetite line of evidence.

Despite his negative views on the meteorite, Walter says "I think it is probable that life was and still is on Mars."

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