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Present day Martian groundwater a mirage, researchers say

U Texas Austin: The researchers think their conclusion -- volcanic rock buried under ice -- is a more plausible explanation for the 2018 discovery, which was already in question after scientists calculated the unlikely conditions needed to keep water in a liquid state at Mars' cold, arid south pole. Read More ›

Water on Mars? It is more likely clay, many now think

Coppedge: The paper in Geophysical Research Letters by I.B. Smith et al., “A Solid Interpretation of Bright Radar Reflectors Under the Mars South Polar Ice” (GRL, 15 July 2021, DOI: 10.1029/2021GL093618) says that clay is a sufficient material to account for the observations. The water interpretation is problematic, because “the amount of dissolved salt and heat required to maintain liquid water at this location is difficult to reconcile with what we know about Mars.” Read More ›

Worry of the month: Could humans have contaminated Mars with life?

Christopher Mason: There is a chance, however, that if we do detect signs of life on Mars, it could have come from Earth in the first place. Ever since the first two Soviet probes landed on the Martian surface in 1971, followed by the US Viking 1 lander in 1976, there likely have been some fragments of microbial, and maybe human DNA, on the Red Planet. Read More ›

China lands Rover on Mars to look for water, life

National Geographic: Utopia Planitia, thought to be the site of an ancient sea, has sedimentary layers that could contain evidence of past water. Even more exciting, these layers of rock could contain traces of any past life on Mars, says James Head III, a planetary scientist at Brown University. Read More ›

Could bacteria have survived a trip from Earth to Mars?

Some see this as evidence that the universe is teeming with life on numberless planets. But what if we find fossil bacteria on Mars with genetics eerily similar to the ones we have on Earth? That could end up undermining such claims. But we shall see. Read More ›

Ethan Siegel enumerates what we might find, re life on Mars

Siegel: It’s the ultimate nightmare of astrobiologists: that there’s a fascinating history of life to uncover on another world, but we’ll contaminate it with our own organisms before we ever learn the true history of life on that world. Read More ›

Researchers: Organic chemicals essential for life found in Martian meteorite; Rob Sheldon responds

Sheldon: The point is that we don't expect to find nitrate and ammonia in the soil of Mars, not unless some nitrogen fixing bacteria put it there recently, because over time it will all come out of the soil as N2 gas. Claiming that the process goes the other way, from N2 in atmosphere to nitrates in soils, goes backwards, from high entropy to low entropy. Read More ›

Researchers: Organic chemicals essential for life found in Martian meteorite; Tim Standish responds

Standish: If the nitrogen cycle isn’t established within a certain time, nitrogen will be removed from the atmosphere and the surface will become rich in nitrate (bad) or, in a reducing atmosphere, ammonia (really bad). The bottom line is that there are speculations that probably get around this, but it is one more needle that has to be threaded for chemical evolution to produce the first life, or a problem for the first life to quickly take care of. Read More ›