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Life on Mars! ?

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Old 02-20-2003, 07:57 PM
CJ Swartz's Avatar
CJ Swartz CJ Swartz is offline
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Life on Mars! ?

Satellite images of a layer of snow on the sides of a Martian crater suggest the red planet might still be concealing water just inches below the surface, scientists reported Wednesday....

The patches captured by Odyssey cameras could be snow and what saves them from disappearing completely is a layer of dust and dirt that has settled on top, Christensen remarked. The dust layer stops the snow from evaporating into the air, he said, and is thin enough to allow sunlight to penetrate. The light, in theory, could travel through the snow, melting it relatively close to the surface -- from inches below to several feet.

"The beauty of snow is that it acts as its own greenhouse even if it's cold," Christensen noted. "Snow acts as a blanket." It protects liquid water below the surface -- liquid water on Mars translates into the possibility of life.

"No one's proposing we've found life but we've found a remarkably interesting possibility of where to look," Christensen explained.

"What (they have) done is (expand) the envelope in terms of places on Mars that could conceivably be habitable even today," said Lynn Rothschild, researcher at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffet Field, Calif.

Rothschild explained that some organisms, such as snow algae, can live in extremely cold temperatures. For example, microscopic algae live in patches in arctic regions where they turn snow a fuchsia color.

Although experts agree water did flow on Mars at one time, the debate continues over whether liquid water exists on the planet today.

John Mustard, professor of geological sciences at Brown University in Providence, R.I., said he suspects Mars harbors no liquid water today. Dust from the atmosphere that has accumulated on top of the snow is probably too thick for light to penetrate, he said.

"I think in terms of liquid water, Mars is on the verge of being habitable," said Bruce Jakosky, professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Jakosky added there is a chance for partial melting of snow on Mars despite the cold temperatures.

To find out just how good the chances are, Christensen said future projects could include landing a spacecraft in the crater -- which he termed "easily landable" -- to probe for the existence of water.
-- UPI

AZ State Univ.

Scientific American
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Old 02-20-2003, 08:53 PM
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Ed_L Ed_L is offline
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Very interesting!! Maybe you could make an "Art Challenge" where the participants created the "beings" on Mars.

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Old 02-21-2003, 06:06 AM
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LQQKER LQQKER is offline
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interesting article CJ

I've been an into astronomy for a while, this news certainly makes one look at what was once considered a "dead planet" with new interest.
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