Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Sunday, July 18, 2004

Little Green Men Microbes from Mars
Written by: Beck

One of the missions of the two Mars rovers still crawling over the alien surface was to attempt to locate any signs that life may have once existed on the planet. They located traces of water and a few interesting looking rocks, but that was far from anything conclusive. Scientists have long thought that conclusive evidence would require a mission far beyond our current level of sophistication.

I've long been fascinated by the thought that life might exist on Mars. Astronomy has always interested me, so any chance that extra-terrestrial life could be found interests me. While I always assumed that there was a decent chance that life once existed on Mars--especially now that it has been shown that water still exists on Mars and once likely existed in much larger quantities, one thing I never considered it to be especially likely that life could still exist there today. With little atmosphere or planetary magnetic field, very little exists to protect Mars from the impact of solar radiation.

Now it looks like life may indeed not only have lived on Mars, but also still lives there today.
Ammonia may have been found in Mars' atmosphere which some scientists say could indicate life on the Red Planet.

Researchers say its spectral signature has been tentatively detected by sensors on board the European Space Agency's orbiting Mars Express craft.
But how is the presence of ammonia in any way significant, you ask?
There are two possible sources: either active volcanoes, none of which have been found yet on Mars, or microbes.
Could the ammonia could simply be left over from long-extinct life, you ask?
Ammonia survives for only a short time in the Martian atmosphere so it must be getting constantly replenished.
To sum up. A European satellite orbiting Mars has detected the spectral signature of ammonia, ammonia could only come from living things, and ammonia only lasts for a few hours in the Martian atmosphere. Do I have anything else to share, you ask? Why I'm glad you asked!
The importance of ammonia is that it is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen.

Nitrogen is rare in the Martian environment but because no form of terrestrial life can exist without it, the presence of ammonia may indicate that Martian microbial life is hoarding it.

"There are no known ways for ammonia to be present in the Martian atmosphere that do not involve life," the NASA scientist said.
So rest assured, folks, life likely exists on Mars, so it can only be a matter of time before some of it gets back to Earth and wipes out life as we know it, covering the planet in a thick blanket of Martian microbes. I'll bring the popcorn.

(Hat tip: Rambling's Journal)

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John Beck

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