On the Road Again - volume 5 - Page 22

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Posts: 344

Reply: 421

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 10:03 PM 

This abstract might be relevant.

It's about a lichen in the Antarctic Dry Valleys.


Posts: 344

Reply: 422

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 10:10 PM 

Following up on your remarks, if blocks of ice were excavated along with rock, as has been suggested by a previous poster, porous rocks would absorb some of the water and might provide a micro-environment for long enough to produce a temporary flourishing of lichen.


Posts: 344

Reply: 423

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 11:09 PM 


Paper from LPI conference that specifically addresses issues of lichens on Mars.


Posts: 125

Reply: 424

PostPosted: March 2, 2010 11:09 PM 

Hi all... You may recall that back in Reply 283 I asked the following question - "A question for the Rock Guys that's been nagging me through this discussion about stems vs wind tails. Why is it only the berries have them? Why wouldn't small rocks, pebbles or other small/harder foreign objects around the berries also have stalks as well? Seems to me only the berries get them."

Winston was the first to respond in 285 - "That's a truly excellent question, and one that might crystallize the whole debate. There are pebbles of roughly the same size as the berries but I have never seen a pebble with a stalk."

Serpens commented on the question in Reply 288 - "The point on no evident clasts eroding out with tails is well made. But I think that we have only seen the stalks in the evaporative sequence and in these beds berries are common and can be attributed to diagenisis."

Kye Goodwin gives a great analysis from a Geologists perspective in Reply 293 - highlights "I think that your question is a really good one. Why haven't we seen any tails behind cobbles, for example?" And later concludes - "I haven't thought it through but it occurs to me that there is no certainty that the bright rock erodes at a constant rate regardless of how long it has been exposed. Maybe Concepcion's eroded breccia eroded very quickly when first exposed. I like this idea because it proposes that the surface environment is not chemically the same as the environment just below the surface, leaving a role for Mars' climate to affect these highly water-soluble rocks. Maybe exposure slowly "hardens" the bright rock to further erosion."

So it appears to me that from all the observations made by landers on the surface of Mars to date, we have a fact - Only the berries have stalks/wind-tails/clasts (which ever you want to call them).

Seems to me given this information the score is 1 - 0 for Biology. Let the games continue.....


Posts: 26

Reply: 425

PostPosted: March 3, 2010 3:27 AM 

@Reply: 425

What about "Pot of Gold" rock seen by Spirit.


Posts: 250

Reply: 426

PostPosted: March 3, 2010 4:44 AM 

Dont forget the Mars Pathfinder (Chryse Planitia) observations of possible chlorophyll spectra (Dr. Carol Stroker et al):

"A detailed analysis of the images of the landing site now reveals two
areas close to Pathfinder that have the spectral signature of



How much more indications needed? But we have time... Smile


Posts: 125

Reply: 427

PostPosted: March 3, 2010 7:32 AM 

Thanks MPJ Reply 426 - Is there life? I was hoping we could start a list of facts on observations re berries and other potential life. Things we now no for certain. I'm not sure Dr. Carol Stroker et al's observation of chlorophyll has been confirmed. We could have a second list of "highly speculative observations" for both sides of the debate. Observation of Chlorophyll might fit nicely under this second catagory. Seems to be that a third list might be appropriat to rid the forum "things in clouds" observations - things we agree on both sides of the debate not to be true. ie. Fact - there is no evidence that there are bunnies hopping around on Mars; LOL.

Under "Confirmed Observations" for example, Winston's observation of berries is that all (or vast majority) are perfectly round.

So at least two confirmed FACTS re berries,

1) Berries are always perfectly round

2) Only berries have stems or stalks

Are there others?


Posts: 3062

Reply: 428

PostPosted: March 3, 2010 8:01 AM 

Hi MPJ; Thanks for the pathfinder reference. I had forgotten about it.

They won't do it but we need to somehow tell the Oppy team that they need to do a few things to gather data that would add to the body of information that supports or does not support the biological model and which is possible to be done by Oppy.

Things like a detailed census of the current rock surfaces on which the rinds sit in terms of types of rock, orientation to the sun direction, association of berries with the rind, etc.; examining by MI examples of the different looking areas of rind; using the MI focus stick creatively to move areas of rind; digging gently at the cracks on the rock surfaces and taking close up MIs right after the digs to see what can be seen. After all, even if it is a geological mission there are things which can be done to expand our knowledge in this area and which can assist in falsifying the competing hypotheses.

I rate the concretion "theory" as no greater than a hypothesis at this time.



Posts: 3465

Reply: 429

PostPosted: March 3, 2010 11:08 AM 

sol 2147 ( Feb 7, 2010 ) saturated false color 3D of interesting soil stain and "stringy" features in a rock crack:

with location links.

I think one way to think about fresh craters on Meridiani plain is to think about another barren place - "smokers" at the bottom of the ocean.

The limiting factor for life on the ocean bottom is not water - it is energy. And when a source of energy briefly becomes available an entire ecology "mysteriously" appears around the source and while it exists marvelous creatures abound. And when the source dies, the ecology dies.

The limiting factor for life on Mars is not energy - it is water, so if water briefly becomes available then it is reasonable to speculate that a similar flowering of activity occurs.

So for perhaps at most a few decades after a fresh crater on a surface with water not far below water vapor might escape to the surface and feed a frenzy ( by Martian standards ) of very interesting geological processes that some call life.


Posts: 3062

Reply: 430

PostPosted: March 3, 2010 4:31 PM 

Hi All; In my short list of things that Oppy could do to get some more data points on probabilities for or against a biological origin of the crusts or rinds I forgot to mention one thing that they are certainly doing. I mentioned earlier that sol 2164 rock could be very important because of the existence of crust and berries on different portions of the rocks. I forgot to mention then that Oppy took a whole series of pancam spectra of those rocks so they are in a position to be able to say categorically that the spectra match or don't match those of common lichens on earth.

There has been no hint of excitement or any leaks about what is going on in the investigations on these crusts/rinds so far.

The obvious reason could be that they have found no match. But silence at this stage could be a possible reaction if they did find a match were cross checking results.

In the meantime, are there any spectroscopists out there who follow this blog and who could use the various filtered images from sol 2164 to compare the spectra of areas with the bluish rind against published spectra of lichens, or is it necessary to get the RAD corrected 12 bit data to do anything worthwhile in this area? I think NASA has some published figures for such spectra.

Another caveat could be that we are probably dealing with fossilized materials which might not be amenable to spectral analyses.

Hort; I'm sure you have demonstrated some skills in this area in the past. Do you think it is possible. I think aicall also did some spectra several years ago in looking for water at the surface.

Hort; re. your 429 above. Nice rationale for explaining the presence of the rinds around relatively young craters.




Posts: 3465

Reply: 431

PostPosted: March 3, 2010 5:16 PM 

sol 2170 panoramas after latest Concepcion circumnavigation move.

Winston, the only possible comparisons using the JPG images are inter-image comparisons - so the only way we could assert that the "raw" brain-dead images show, say, peanut butter sandwiches is to have a known peanut butter sandwich in the picture.

Once the radiometrically corrected versions of the images are available from the MER Analyst's Notebook site then it is possible to construct meaningful "pancam spectra".

Remind me in 9 months or so when the data is available and I will try to put something together. Right now the latest sol available is 1980.


Posts: 250

Reply: 432

PostPosted: March 3, 2010 5:42 PM 

I guess chlorophyll type biota is fairly easy to detect in nIR wavelengths due to the so called vegeatation red edge:

This is only possible for living biota not fossilised of course. I wonder if anyone ever checked the according wavelengths in MER-imaging as done with the Pathfinder data.


Posts: 344

Reply: 433

PostPosted: March 3, 2010 6:39 PM 

The paper I cited in #424 discusses how lichen may alter the chemistry of the rock in a way that can be detected as a different ratio of elements. Since the APXS can measure at least some element ratios, this may be a possible bio-signature.


Posts: 169

Reply: 434

PostPosted: March 3, 2010 8:18 PM 

While this may generate another ad hominem response let us set the record straight. Chlorophyll was never detected at the Pathfinder site. See the last para of:


Posts: 3062

Reply: 435

PostPosted: March 3, 2010 9:44 PM 

Re your 434. Seen it. Thanks.



Posts: 344

Reply: 436

PostPosted: March 3, 2010 10:31 PM 

Today's pancams are out. All left eyes, no right eyes. I wonder why the recent dearth of right eye images?


Posts: 3062

Reply: 437

PostPosted: March 3, 2010 10:33 PM 

Here's a colour composite (auto colour) of one of today's Oppy panCam image series. I don't think I have seen a more distinct colour change of the surface soil around the rocks before. It almost looks as if they are oozing.



Posts: 250

Reply: 438

PostPosted: March 4, 2010 3:10 AM 

re434: Of course it was a "computer glitch" - cholorophyll type biota is not possible on Mars Very Happy

"But a NASA spokeswoman says analysis carried out since the abstract was submitted has convinced Stoker that the spots are not evidence of Martian photosynthesis but a computer glitch. For the time being at least, final proof of past or present Martian life continues to elude us."

Still the question remains: have there been any more attempts to check visual nIR data for red edge anomalies? Or are the scientists scared of Strokers computer glitches?

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Reply: 439

PostPosted: March 4, 2010 5:45 AM 

Have a look at the Space Rock picture in this article, it seems to be covered in Sphericle bumps. What caused this? The heat of the blast? Entering Earth's Atmoshpere or the Climate in the Antartica?



Posts: 3062

Reply: 440

PostPosted: March 4, 2010 8:08 AM 

mpj; This is on another matter, the methane story, but it says volumes about the professional sensitivities of scientists working for NASA and what the limits are on what they can discuss or publish, and who holds the upper hand.


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