More results for the possibility of Life on Mars - Page 27

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PostPosted: January 14, 2013 6:40 PM 


Bacteria in salt deposits.


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PostPosted: January 17, 2013 12:21 PM 

Curiosity will no doubt be doing its best to search for such areas in Gale Crater only trouble is the on board microscope powerful enough to see microbes of this size? Equally even if it could once they are exposed to the outside environment how long would they live as they would undoubtedly live beneath the surface.

Robert Clark

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PostPosted: January 20, 2013 3:23 AM 

Cool. Thanks for that Barsoomer.
Kevin, oddly NASA still has not put a real microscope sufficient to see bacteria on any rover or lander, now at seven of them, or eight if you count the Sojourner rover separate from the Pathfinder lander.
At best what we have are magnifying lenses, analogous to what a geologist would use in field studies.

Bob Clark


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PostPosted: January 20, 2013 8:33 AM 

Robert Clarke; True! and there must be a reason for that.



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PostPosted: January 20, 2013 1:25 PM 

All that is needed is a microscope with one micron resolution. There are optical microscopes that would suffice---no need for SEM or AFM.

I think the microscope on Oppy has about 30 microns resolution. Not sure about Curiosity but I don't think they are much better.


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PostPosted: January 20, 2013 2:17 PM 

Barsoomer and Robert Clarke;
Exactly! and they could easily, at no significant extra cost, have had a 1um resolution microscope imager on Curiosity illumined by LED lighting when necessary. The fact that they didn't is just another sure indication that the mission was truly intended to be totally geological with the misdirection in its objectives of determining past or present habitability at that site on Mars which, as MPJ usually posits, was the least likely of the final sites evaluated to have harboured past or current life.

It's purpose was again geology. Pure and Simple.

But there are signs that despite their intentions life may still be found amongst the geology data being gathered.



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PostPosted: January 21, 2013 9:38 AM 

Actually there was an optical microscope (OM) along a SEM mounted to the Phoenix Mars probe which yielded ambitious results (again) regarding life:

example of interesting timelapse observations with the Phoenix OM (there were much more - see Hortons work in the Phoenix section of this blog for example - especially the observations involving UV-Illumination)

All my (active) biologists peers confirmed the first to look like what they see in their microscope observations of microbes during their daily work - the Mars scientists claims this to be either optical artifacts or motion due to the microscope/sample handling procedures and the like.

Winston, the problem I see with the Gale crater landing site is the difficulties of finding those traces and hints of life with remote controlled devices in such a dusty site compared to most other candidate sites which offers almost dust free areas among dramatic ancient (and confirmed water influenced) landscapes. The confirmation of that ancient riverbed increased the probability of this site once harbored life yet to find the traces of it and current life in a place almost fully covered with the omnipresent Martian dust makes is a really hard maybe impossible task for a remote controlled vehicle. But the MSL intruments are good and if there is something to discover its up to an open minded and flexible team to uncover (almost literally) the goodies. Smile


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PostPosted: January 22, 2013 5:14 AM 

Dr Chandra Wickramasinghe has come across a new meteorite that he claims shows signs of extraterrestrial life forms. Phil Plait aka "Bad Astronomer" is shooting this one down however these images are compelling.

Ha ha as we are not UMSF we can discuss such things what are peoples thoughts on this one?

[link] ?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003#slide=2002847


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PostPosted: January 22, 2013 5:26 AM 

Here is Phil Plait's response interesting that despite shooting this down he does believe there is life out there and perhaps life arose on Mars before Earth.



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PostPosted: January 22, 2013 5:39 AM 

Kevin, i read about it some days ago already and just waited for others attacking the paper for obvious reasons. The "Bad Astronomer" had an easy prey with this one I would say but he really kept it fair and scientific. Very Happy

Wickramasinghe really should put some more time and accuracy into his papers and not rush them. First he need to confirm the subject of his research to be what he claims it to be (a meteorite) at best via neutral experts and then at least specify why he believes the obvious diatom structures in the SEM observations are not Earth contaminants.
I think it would not be that difficult to establish some facts about the structures being mineralogical fossils - which would support his conclusion of et-origin - by putting it into some analytical life science instruments to check for living organic matter - which would support the claim of it being living fresh water diatoms from Earth as Plaits expert claims.

Actually I would not take any side at this one and wait for a serious discussion and probably follow up research on this.

At the moment the Tissint meteorite findings are more compelling taken the fact that follow up research by others confirmed his chemical data analysis and the origin of Mars meanwhile. Smile

Robert Clark

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PostPosted: January 24, 2013 4:04 PM 

MPJ, the best they had on Mars Phoenix was the resolution of a geologist's hand lens:

Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) Instrument Description.

A common biology microscope could have submicron resolution.

Bob Clark


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PostPosted: January 25, 2013 3:56 AM 

Bob, in re527 I was refering to the Mars Phoenix optical microscope (part of the MECA package) with a 4 microns per pixel resolution.

Robert Clark

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PostPosted: January 25, 2013 1:38 PM 

Still MPJ, thats about ten times worse than a standard optical microscope that can get submicron resolution.
That 4 micron resolution (actually that page says it can detect particles of size 10 microns and above) is probably still within the human visibility range based on the fact that the common garden spider has threads of 3 micron thickness yet are still visible to the human eye:

The Wonders of Spider Silk.
"Spider silk is both light and strong. Hillyard says "A typical strand of garden spider silk has a diametre of about 0.003 mm (0.00012 in) in diametre, compare this with silkworm silk which is 0.03 mm in diametre" or ten times as thick."

At only a 4 micron resolution the overwhelming majority of bacteria would still be invisible.

Bob Clark


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Reply: 534

PostPosted: February 27, 2013 9:03 AM 

On Monday I attended a talk by Prof. Liane Benning at the Royal Society - How can the Arctic help find life on other Planets.

Liane and her team have been back and forth to the Svalbard region for the last 10 years the Volcano here has a similar rock make up to ALH84001.

They developed techniques and designs that ended up on Curiosity in the form of SAM and CheMin.

Most of the stuff talked about and discussed all of us here have blogged about however a few things stood out for me:

These life forms do not survive in these environments they thrive in them just because it's too cold, hot, acid, loaded with UV etc. for us means nothing they love where they live. So we should really ask what is on Mars that life could thrive on acidic brined, dry ice, perchlorate etc. However water still seems to be a must have ingredient and we have followed that on Mars so that box has been ticked.

We don't know how life started on Earth, why or where i.e. Smokers, Springs, Pools etc. When Life first arrived there was no oxygen here and for billions of years just cells then they split and we simply don't why that happened either. Life elsewhere may not resemble anything we know of "it's life Jim but not as we know it" a whole new way of thinking is required. It could start in a different way there are so many pathways to life nothing can really be ignored.

No matter what we place on Mars only human eyes combined with our brain are capable of searching out life the crew will need to be trained in both biology and geology. Currently over 150 scientists are glued to their screens watching data stream down from Curiosity but that 6 man crew would see, discover and analyse more than they can currently do now in a much shorter space of time.

What we need is about 500g of good Martian Rock we have so little to work with and most if it is heavily contaminated by Earth. Interestingly the planned Sample Return Mission will have to bring the rocks to the Moon first in "Level 5" containment for fear of the "Doomsday Bug". Ebola the most dangerous bacteria on Earth is level 4. So we need a Moon Base before we can do the sample return even then it will be quite some time before it finds its way to Earth.

In the meantime they will continue to develop techniques to find life and experiments that will help us understand these strange life forms. Work at the Antarctic lakes such as Vostok and Elmsmere will continue to drill below the ice and are successfully sterilising their equipment to get true results from the lakes this will help planned missions to the ice moons Europa and Enceladus.

When asked if she thought there was life on mars? Oh yes there is it's all the stuff we brought from Earth!

In conclusion there is no reason to believe we are alone but to prove that we need to keep going and do what mankind has always done, explore and discover.


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PostPosted: February 27, 2013 9:59 AM 

Kevin, interesting post above! I think the main issue is that we should stop thinking too earth-centric and take the macro life on Earth as the prime measure for capabilities and needs for habitability in the universe. Even on Earth more than 90% of the biosphere consists of microscopic lifeforms with almost unbelievable capabilities of coping with huge ranges of environmental "problems" compared to homo sapiens and mammals in general as an example.

As I often said: ANY biologist Iam in contact with really has no problem with the possibility of life on Mars for reasons.

We just need to start looking for the life on Mars without ideological blinders. I ask this again why not repeating the Viking biology experiments with more sensitive setups as suggested numerous times for a (re-)start? Smile

In case somebody missed this interesting articel: "Mars May Be Habitable Today, Scientists Say" [link]


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PostPosted: February 27, 2013 10:43 AM 

MPJ - Yes I read that article and during the talk the Atacama, Lake Mono, Yellowstone and Antartica were mentioned and what was found there. The Viking Lander more than likely overheated everything and killed it, apparently Exo Mars is the only life detecting mission planned it will take a different route by bringing other organics that would be killed off if they made contact with Mars organics if they survive then there is nothing there. That mission is very much in limbo.
When they find samples of the various life forms in glaciers etc. they put them straight into liquid nitrogen for an instant freeze and when they get back to the lab put the bugs into their own environment and they wake up. If you chill them down slowly they go mushy and the cell wall breaks and all the stuff is gone. It is all very tricky work that has been through a lot of trial and error to perfect the techniques if humans were on Mars they could adapt far quicker than a rover.
On Earth there is more bacteria here than all the other species put together, bacteria is not only robust but adapts to its surroundings very quickly reforming to find ways to benefit from its environment. Mars must have bacteria in many places to this day, the sundial on oppy has had a morphing stain on it for years now almost like a culture growing in a lab. But that could simply be magnetic dust but equally it might not be.


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PostPosted: June 6, 2013 8:26 AM 

Interesting article about Mars Sample return missions including changing sentiments in the scientific communities about possibilities of life on Mars:


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PostPosted: June 6, 2013 1:14 PM 

Thanks MPJ for the link to the sample return mission - which contains a very informative link to the Mars Hability-2013 conference.

I spent a dreary morning courtesy of Andrea - the first tropical storm of the season - watching videos from the conference and came away with the realization that Mars must be inhabited. It renewed my energy in finding evidence of such activity in the daily images from the rovers.

I recommend this conference to anyone interested in Life on Mars.

Now time to check on the latest images from Mars...


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PostPosted: June 12, 2013 8:06 AM 

Martian meteorite is found to contain Boron which is thought to be crucial for RNA the evolutionary step to DNA:

Ancient Mars Had Component Key to Life, Meteorite Reveals.


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PostPosted: June 18, 2013 5:51 AM 

TGO 2016 and ExoMars 2018 are back on track the things that excite me most is a)looking for the source of the Methane (if any)and b)ExoMars is looking for life past or present. We have done enough geology and also most important a drill that will go down 2m and that's where you need to be!! The loss of NASA involvement in this mission in my view is a great shame as all that experience gained from landing Curiosity would be so valuable I hope that there will be some sort of collaboration.

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