More results for the possibility of Life on Mars - Page 2

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r lewis

Posts: 202

Reply: 21

PostPosted: September 8, 2010 11:33 AM 

PS, I don;t think anyone here other than you have sugested we should find coal beds on mars.


Posts: 2270

Reply: 22

PostPosted: September 8, 2010 2:47 PM 

The expected succession of plant evolution is microbes, lichens and mosses, herbaceous plants, shrubs, and finally trees.

If we accept the idea there are microbes on Mars, why haven't they evolved further into plants, that when buried, could become coal?

Some believe that proof of advanced forms of life could be proven if peat or coal seams were found which would be much easier than fossil beds.


Posts: 3062

Reply: 23

PostPosted: September 8, 2010 9:23 PM 

Ben; Mars is different to Earth in several respects even though the geological building blocks on both planets might be the same.

The martian macro environmental surface conditions were most probably quite different to the conditions that allowed the development and proliferation on earth of the succession of biota you mentioned above. Such inimical conditions could have existed for eons and thus provide part of the rationale for why we see no trees on the surface of Mars at this time.

This does not mean that micro environmental conditions at the surface of mars could not have given rise to microbes (unicellular or multicellular) that could still exist in some special niches on or near mar's surface.

Man's close-up exploration of mars surface is still in the proto-embryonic stage even while its macro orbiter exploration of that surface is almost complete.

You are very brave to posit that because orbiter images do not show surface areas that can be identified as supporting typical Earth plants or collections of such plants, that none such exist anywhere on or INSIDE mars, even just below the surface, or in the deep gouges in the martian surface that show up greenish in colour composites.

I think Mars still has some surprises up his sleeve for all of us and that depending totally on the demonstation of examples of earth higher plants on Mar's surface is only likely to mislead us.

Indeed, if the Viking mission found life as claimed by Gil Levin, (a conclusion which appears to be in the process of being strengthened by the Phoenix results) then practically every image that Oppy sent back had life forms in it, just as every image of every surface on earth has abundant life. Only that in Mar's case it is probably microbial life which may be the only form that can thrive in the harsh conditions on the surfaces of mars that have been examined close up so far.

But your main point is why don't we see earthlike higher life forms? I say, higher martian life forms are likely there but just below the surface in special niches and I won't be surprised (if Oppy gets close to Endeavour crater edge) if we see some of them even though we might not be able to recognize them.



Posts: 3062

Reply: 24

PostPosted: September 8, 2010 9:45 PM 

And Ben; I forgot to mention that on this blog geologists tend to treat the surface of mars that we now see as being almost exactly what was there a few billion years ago. I think they are wrong. I think that on Meridiani the lie has been given to this by several observations. These include the proliferation of several new craters formed during the lifetime of the Mars orbiters. They also include the effects of the wind at Victoria. They include the "cleaning events". They include the effects of dust devils. They include seeming sub surface eruptions of moisture. They include the changes seen around Oppy's heat shield. They include the likely effects of a diurnal moisture cycle. They include the rapid covering of the tracks left by Oppy on the surface of meridiani.

If one factors in the effects the above factors are likely to have in making changes to the surface over millenia or millions of years then it is very unlikely that the surfaces we are seeing now bear any significant relationship to those in a wet warm period that presumably happened some billions of years ago as serpens and others would have us believe. In other words, looking for coal or peat on the surface in such an environment would be more than futile.



Posts: 2270

Reply: 25

PostPosted: September 9, 2010 1:54 PM 

Winston; I think you miss the point about the age of the current Mars surface.

Except for the period when apparent catastrophic flows of liquids modified the surface and the incessant bombardment by impacts, Mars,compared to earth, has been very stable and altered little by the processes you mention.

I think your following comment says it all.

"Only that in Mar's case it is probably microbial life which may be the only form that can thrive in the harsh conditions on the surface of Mars that have been examined close up so far".

I interpret this to mean that you believe conditions for advanced life were more prevalent in the past and all we need to do is explore beneath the surface and we will find it.

This subsurface excavation which I constantly point out has already been done for us and yet albeit from a distance we have not seen ANYTHING.

One would not expect to see coal seams
on the slightly eroded planar surfaces of Mars but there are many deep canyons and crater pits that expose thick layered beds
which on earth would have exposed coal seams all over the world.

I predict that the ultimate conclusion will be that for planets to have advanced life they will require a "goldilocks" place.


Posts: 3062

Reply: 26

PostPosted: September 9, 2010 2:41 PM 

I think I have not got over my point as clearly as I would like. Let me try again.

I'm hypothesizing that Mars might indeed have had an environment sometime ago that was less inimical to the development and survival of higher life forms on the SURFACE than what we see now and that these lifeforms may still exist below the surface. But it may also be true that putative martian lifeforms below the surface may never have needed to exist on the surface. Such lifeforms may or may not resemble life forms on earth.

We can't see them from our very limited explorations because they are not where we are looking. They are underground and perhaps in other near surface niches.

The subsurface excavations of which you speak probably took place 100s of millions of years in the past and the surface erosional activities would have covered them long ago and thereby provided conditions for them to continue their existence, as remember, they cannot thrive on the martian surface.

We can't see them because they are not where we are looking. They are not where we are looking because conditions are not suitable for their survival there. We do not have the instrumentation to see them underground.



Posts: 2270

Reply: 27

PostPosted: September 9, 2010 4:02 PM 

Winston; Would you care to guess what one of these creatures that never lived above ground, probably never breathed oxygen,and gains substinence from minerals, would look like ? Wink


Posts: 344

Reply: 28

PostPosted: September 9, 2010 4:35 PM 

In Science 10 September 2010:

"Phoenix Lander Revealing a Younger, Livelier Mars"

Results of a study of the isotopic composition of atmospheric CO2 by the Phoenix lander.


Posts: 3062

Reply: 29

PostPosted: September 9, 2010 5:50 PM 

Hi barsoomer; Thanks. Almost exactly what I've been saying for the last few years. The images we have been seeing do not look like the surface of a dead planet. the colours bespeak ongoing chemical interactions, the clouds as well. The surface we see today could not be billions of years old and the methodology the geologists use for determining ages of areas on mars must be totally akin to reading tea leaves.

the article you referenced says this:-

"Although the ice of a deeply frigid martian winter wrecked the Phoenix lander last year, data it returned in 2008 are yielding signs that Mars has been surprisingly lively these past few billion years, at least in a geochemical sort of way. Phoenix's measurements of the isotopic composition of atmospheric carbon dioxide are pointing to an atmosphere rejuvenated by volcanic outpourings, possibly up to the very recent geologic past. Moreover, despite what looks like eons of frigid dryness, the atmosphere may have been chemically interacting with liquid water recently. And where there's liquid water, of course, there could be life"

That article is an almost direct fortuitous answer to Ben's questions by extension.

Barsoomer, Do you have access to the full paper? It looks as if it would be an important one for all Mar's enthusiasts to study.

Ben; They could look like anything. But, just as the creatures now being found miles deep in the oceans of earth with no access to oxygen or sunlight resemble other lifeforms on earth, I would guess that there is a slim possibility that they could resemble these creatures. I'm not even thinking of hominids or mammals or such like but who knows there may be an ecosystem in underground Mars that might be home to such higher life forms as we speak.



Posts: 344

Reply: 30

PostPosted: September 9, 2010 10:17 PM 

Winston, access to the actual paper requires a subscription, but the Sep 10 issue of Science should be in the public libraries and big bookstores soon.


Posts: 169

Reply: 31

PostPosted: September 9, 2010 10:29 PM 

Winston, Richard A Kerr who wrote that article is a prolific journalist who writes for the science tabloids. In this case he is mining the paper by Niles et al on the TEGA results from Phoenix. Abstract at

What are the key findings of the University of Arizona paper? The C12 C13 ratios indicate that there have been active volcanos on Mars in the geologically recent past (Amazonian). No surprises there but it does provide another data point supporting existing models. They also note a large discrepancy in the O16 O18 ratios between atmosphere and Martian meteorites with one exception. A Mars Meteorite that crystallised recently (in geological terms) which has ratios closer to the current atmosphere and traces of carbonates. The isotope ratios suggest that the volcanic rock has reacted with liquid water. This also supports existing models, in particular the proposal by Griffith & Shock that the deficiency between estimated outgassing and the polar cap/atmospheric CO2 volume can be attributed to the formation and sequestering underground of carbonates in hydrothermal systems (based on physical investigations in Iceland). Volcanism providing the energy required for this process, the Mars Meteorite analysis (Volcanic rock + carbonates) gives this hypothesis a tick in the box. The Amazonian outflow channels also point to surface flows of liquid water which would have possibly influenced the O16 O18 ratios.

Ben, I guess Winston is proposing an anaerobic life-form at a depth where liquid water may still exist with energy provided by hydrothermal activity, and he may well be correct although all volcanos on the surface of Mars are extinct and there is no evidence that Mars retains a molten core.

As you are well aware, in the main I find Winston’s interpretations of the visual and geochemical aspects of Meridiani quite bizarre. But I can accept that there could be bacteria deep underground and this was I think his field of expertise? But I’m not sure he really appreciates just how stable the Martian environment is compared to Earth. I mean the Himalayas only formed 50 to 55 million years ago.


Posts: 344

Reply: 32

PostPosted: September 9, 2010 10:33 PM 


The above link gets to a page from which the abstract and supplemental material from the actual paper are reachable.


Stable Isotope Measurements of Martian Atmospheric CO2 at the Phoenix Landing Site


Posts: 3062

Reply: 33

PostPosted: September 9, 2010 11:15 PM 

Barsoomer; I subscribed to the Science article for 15$ so I have that. But, as Serpens hints above, it is a popular interpretation of a paper that might not have captured fully the nuances of the original paper. I don't have easy access to the Science journal and a subscription would be too costly.

Serpens; thanks for the link to the original article. I will search for it as soon as I post this response.



Posts: 3062

Reply: 34

PostPosted: September 9, 2010 11:27 PM 

Serpens; Are all "extinct" volcanos on earth actually extinct. Haven't some supposedly extinct volcanos on earth come back to life in modern times? If so, might not some of the martian volcanos not be really extinct?

Also, I can appreciate the apparent truism that the martian environment is extremely stable compared to earth's but I don't think that Mars environment is as static as you think. The images from the orbiters and rovers don't say so. Also, I have huge reservations on the ages you ascribe to current martian landforms and the methodology for dating them.

Perhaps in the not too distant future my bizarre interpretations of the meridiani landscapes may turn out to be not as bizarre as you think.

Thanks again for the references and helping to explain my point above to ben.



Posts: 250

Reply: 35

PostPosted: September 10, 2010 6:52 AM 

Regarding Mars's volcanoes: The PI of MEX HRSC Prof. Neukum is convinced that martian volcanoes were active quite recently and are not extinct but rather dormant:

In his lectures he always states that there is a good chance we will see vulcanic eruptions on Mars during our lifetimes Smile


Posts: 1661

Reply: 36

PostPosted: September 10, 2010 3:52 PM 

Well, I guess you guys can believe whatever you want to with respect to your 'life from a dead robot' scenarios. These will twist your mind-set upside down. You have bored me from the beginning with your Viking threats of life. Like I said earlier, they-the NEW examiners of old data-are embellishing past data to make it read the way you want to hear it.[retrospective falsification] I have read all I want to or wish to regarding the Viking and Phoenix results to come to MY OWN conclusion...simply, NO LIFE on Mars!!!

...and if you would take the time to study a few courses in Astronomy as well as other related science disciplines and perhaps engage emails with real scientists in Astronomy, Physics and Chemistry and Geology like I do, you may find after many years of personal debate before you open your mouth, that YES, a planet to support life needs at least, and to have a bare minimum, it must be in the Goldie-locks zone of a star. Get with it and don't believe in everything you read or are told. You have not made up your minds by yourselves, but others are leading you around by the ring in your nose! You are easy marks for their band-wagon.



Posts: 2270

Reply: 37

PostPosted: September 10, 2010 11:57 PM 

dx; I can't say there is no life on Mars because we have found microbial life in some very harsh environments on earth,such as very hot water,acidic, extreme cold, deep oceans,anaerobic surroundings, to name just a few.

My problem is that these organisms probably have been here for a very long time and don't appear to be the precursors of advanced life as we know it. They appear to just stay the same so if similar entities are present on Mars, they probably have not evolved into advanced life forms either.

I agree with your goldilocks comment and think it takes a very rare and unique set of circumstances to produce an earthly analog.

Has anyone ever calculated the odds for all the necessary parameters to exist in a time frame that would duplicate earth?


Posts: 1661

Reply: 38

PostPosted: September 11, 2010 12:40 AM 


Thanks for your comment in 37. I agree with you totally about 'exotic life' on Earth and the environment variety they live in. But are they really living...what are they creating in their harsh environment? Nothing that I know of...they are just there as part of the Earth's make-up. You can't move them from it! They will die...yes just one movement or addition of an alien substance will kill them off, why wouldn't it? I have absolutely no issues with those findings. And best of all I agree with you again on the missing links [if any] to advance in any organism supposition proposed. Hell, there is bio-organisms growing under my finger nails at the moment and they are doing nothing to hurt me!

Cyanobacteria as a simple biology found on Earth, should it have taken hold on Mars? There seems to be no indication of it with respect to the minerals detected. Why is that?

Your 4th sentence is a brain storm of data search and I like it. This we should answer to understand the depth of believability of research and what to expect, besides the unexpected. The unexpected has not surfaced or exposed itself on Mars...because its not there! But you and I talked about the Earth in upheaval several years ago and to have that same condition exist elsewhere would be very rare indeed. I know this Milky Way galaxy is a big place and have only started to see other planets out there around the 300 to 400 LY distance...not very far yet, but perhaps looking along our spiral arm would prove fruitful.



Posts: 13

Reply: 39

PostPosted: September 11, 2010 10:07 AM 

OK finally looks like I can post again.

Just a couple of things:

Where is the Methane coming from? If it is Volcanic there is a possibility if there is contact with ice water will flow and life could be supported.

If Oppy does wake up and remains where it is and studies the rotation of Mars and finds there is a liquid core this would open up an even bigger debate as to what is going on below the surface.

Goldilocks Zone, I am not so sure given that Europa could support life because of Flumes deep beneath the Ice. Our position in the Solar System has no real benefit or effect on life forms living miles beneath our Oceans, in the Antartica or in deep, boiling hot Caves.

Something like Archaea could quite possibly live beneath the surface of Mars.

Kye Goodwin

Posts: 1166

Reply: 40

PostPosted: September 12, 2010 1:42 PM 

Barsoomer, re your 32, Good work finding something about this Phoenix isotope ratio research for free. Here's a second-hand version that adds some more details to the SCIENCE abstract:

This is pretty interesting stuff to me. It implies that the atmosphere is interacting with sub-surface water of some sort just when I'm getting into thinking of Meridiani as a landscape that is being eroded "from below".

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