Life on Mars?
Earth is the only planet in the Solar system that is capable of supporting life as we know it - The rest of the solar group are mere barren rocks Correct?
This has long been the prevailing belief amongst the greater majority of us who live on this planet and continues to be the official stance of science in general, and yet, science, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say technology, is beginning to provide tantalising scraps of information that seems to hint that earth might not be the only planet in the Solar system that is harbouring life.
Planet Mars, one of our closest planetary neighbours, has become a popular target for spacecraft and robotic exploration. Some of the images that have been sent back by these cybernetic investigators, hint that there might be more to the Red Planet than we bargained for.
Although scientists now accept that there may be large quantities of water on Mars - most of it hidden beneath the surface, their official stance continues to be that the planet harbours no life - Certainly nothing visible to the naked eye.
Many average people, however (and some scientists) are now coming round to the conclusion that Mars does indeed harbour life - and not just microscopic stuff. They believe that Mars has vegetation - Large vegetation. Vegetation that has shown up on photographs of the planet.
Seasonal signs on Mars
At the beginning of every Springtime on Mars, dark patches appear on the dunes around the edges of the ice-cover in the southern hemisphere.
As Spring continues, the dark patches grow bigger and darker and continue to do so as the dunes defrost over the Summer.
This cycle continues year on year, with the dark spots appearing in the same places and patterns each year and it's seasonal nature has convinced many people (including some scientists) that the phenomenon must be biological in nature.
Predictably, the official stance of the NASA scientific community is that the seasonal darkening are not evidence of biology, but due to some as yet unexplained springtime defrosting process.
One of our robotic explorers - The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) - however, has been sending back images of Mars that only add fuel to the fire.
Consider the photograph below. You could be forgiven for thinking it depicts a shrub covered area of desert here on Earth - It is in fact the Martian surface.
The "shrubs" are clearly not merely marks on the sand - The shadows cast by them are clear evidence that these are structures above ground level, and at least one Hungarian research team believe that they provide strong evidence for some sort of biological activity on the surface of the red planet.
More controversial still is the following Mars Global Surveyor photograph. It shows what appear to be some sort of biological growth. Again, the shadows cast by these objects clearly show that they are above-ground structures. Neither are these structures static There are clear seasonal changes as the increased warmth and light of the Spring/Summer months appear to make them grow.
Arthur C. Clarke gives his opinion
The eminent science author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke, having seen a preview of the images, addressed an audience of scientists at the Smithsonian Institute in 2001 where he likened the objects to Banyan trees.
He said: "I've seen images on Mars which convince me Mars is teeming with life. I'm quite serious when I say I have had a pretty good look at these new Mars images. Some of them are actually moving and changing with the seasons, which does suggest at least vegetation"
He went on to say "Some of these images show what seems to be unmistakable large areas of vegetation".
NASA however, continue to insist that they are mere defrosting processes that we are unused to, and probably unique to the "bizarre geology" on Mars.
Many critics cite the size of the structures (which can be up to 100 metres across), as a reason why they could not be "trees" "too big to support their own weight" they say, obviously forgetting that the gravity on Mars is less than it is on Earth, making "trees" of such a size perfectly consistent with the local conditions
Whether the images actually show biological entities or not, is of course unknown at present. The colour of the "foliage" could have been a big clue, as a green hue would suggest that there was some photosynthetic process in action, and a big indicator of biology. Unfortunately, the Mars Global Surveyor cameras were designed only to detect red and blue, making true colour photographs of the surface impossible.
To help you better imagine what these structures would look like if they did turn out to be green, I have artificially coloured the "trees" photo Above.
We will just have to accept that our opinions are only opinions until such time as a Mars rover is sent to explore these controversial areas of the Red Planet, When that happens we will have to trust that NASA will tell us the truth about what is actually out there - and they will - Won't they?.
What do you think?
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Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on February 08, 2012:
Thanks John - Yes I've heard those stories too - There may be another Hub in there somewhere ;)
John Sarkis from Winter Haven, FL on February 08, 2012:
I heard that there are pyramid shape sections in mars, much like the ancient pyramids in our own world. Some have gone as far as to say this may be proof that our origins can be traced back to mars?
Great article - enjoyed it