Life On Other Planets In The News

Planets with water = life?

Several recent stories in the news seem to building up the acceptance of extraterrestrials life existing.

A website based in India has reported researchers with the Chandrayaan-1 mission may have found “signs of life in some form or the other on the Moon.” . The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Satellite Centre says that Chandrayaan-1, which impacted the within the Shackleton Crater on the Moon’s south pole on Nov. 14, 2008, picked up signatures of organic matter on parts of the Moon’s surface. The scientist added the source of the organics could be comets or meteorites which have deposited the matter on the Moon’s surface but the recent discovery by another impact probe — the LCROSS mission — of ice in the polar regions of the Moon also “lend credence to the possibility of organic matter there.”

A NASA article Martian Methane Reveals the Red Planet is not a Dead Planet claims first definitive detection of methane in the atmosphere of Mars indicates the planet is still alive, in either a biologic or geologic sense, according to a team of NASA and university scientists. A biological sense? Methane is of interest to astrobiologists because organisms release much of Earth’s methane as they digest nutrients.

On Earth, microorganisms thrive 2 to 3 kilometers (about 1.2 to 1.9 miles) beneath the Witwatersrand basin of South Africa, where natural radioactivity splits water molecules into molecular hydrogen (H2) and oxygen. The organisms use the hydrogen for energy. It might be possible for similar organisms to survive for billions of years below the permafrost layer on Mars, where water is liquid, radiation supplies energy, and carbon dioxide provides carbon.
Michael Mumma of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md

Then the dropping of this little gem in a story about Saturn’s Moon Titan “Experts believe the presence of liquid on a planet or moon improves the chances that some kind of life could develop there.” as NASA reveals first-ever photo of liquid on another world.

And even gets into the action with Nearby Super-Earth May Be a Waterworld. It seems planet GJ 1214b is about 40 light-years away and is about three times the size of Earth and about 6.5 times as massive. It is the second smallest planet discovered outside of our solar system to date, trailing behind only CoRoT-7b, which is 1.7 times Earth’s size and about five times as massive. What is really important is scientists think the thick atmosphere of GJ 1214b creates a high pressure environment that keeps water on the surface in a liquid state.

Back to Mars real quick, the story New Study of Meteorite Provides More Evidence for Ancient Life on Mars where the meteorite, called Allan Hills 84001 (ALH84001), which was first analyzed in 1996 has been looked at again using advanced microscopy techniques not available in 1996 to investigate the carbonate disks and, more importantly, the magnetite nanocrystals within the disks. These embedded magnetites are the apparent fossils that exhibit features similar to contemporary magnetotactic bacteria. Comparing these to Earth magnetotactic bacteria that are quite common in aqueous environments, they are more similar than not. What does that mean? How about bacteria on Mars over 15 million years ago.

While aliens have yet to land on the White House lawn, this is a start.

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