On Mars, found marsh gas. It remains to find frogs

05.04.2004

05.04.2004


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Sergei LESKOV

New evidence for the possible existence of life on Mars received this week, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). Two groups of researchers independently found traces of methane in the Martian atmosphere. Methane — a gas which is released as a result of life of all living organisms on Earth. But can the Martian methane, which is no different from earthly life to be the product of alien microbes living under the surface of the Red Planet?

Just a week ago, NASA and ESA have announced the presence of a bygone, in ancient times, the huge mass of liquid water on Mars. This means that the planet has suitable climatic conditions for the emergence and maintenance of life. But as you can see life itself? Find similar on tracing criminal who did not manage to catch. Easier to detect traces of it. I mean waste products. On Earth paleoarheologi are happy when zapoluchat ancient dinosaur dung. Mars needs more liquid. Already marsh gas gives high hopes that Mars is inhabited apparent family frights and leeches.

The Europeans, led by Vittorio Formisano of the Institute of Physics and Astronomy at Rome made the discovery thanks to the sensitive lines of the methane absorption spectrometer on board the orbiter "Mars Express". Americans have come to the same conclusion under the direction of Michael Mumma of the Goddard Space Flight Center Goddard in Maryland. Their earthly instrumental base — spectrometers on powerful telescopes in Hawaii. Peak concentrations of methane detected in the area of ancient Martian sea bottom to the plateau of Meridian, where now — coincidentally — working rover "Opportunity". Professor Mumma and surprised myself: "It's hard to imagine that the 4 billion years that there is Mars, from its depths in the atmosphere is constantly leaking methane. Everything looks very mysterious."

In addition to living organisms that produce methane, it can become a source of deep geological processes in the womb of the planet. But the catch is that there are no traces of the active volcanoes on Mars were found. Methane in the Martian atmosphere continues to be destroyed due to photochemical reactions. In other words, the decomposed by solar ultraviolet radiation. It is estimated that the lifetime of each molecule of methane in the Martian atmosphere is about 300 years old. Therefore it is necessary that a source of inspiration in the fresh air is constantly acted methane. That is, from now on Mars to look for is no longer water, but that provides a continuous reproduction of methane.

— Methane — a better biomarker that can indicate the presence of life, — says the head of the Laboratory of the Institute of Space Research and member of the current Mars mission Igor Mitrofanov. — But we must remain vigilant, the opening should double-check, because the concentration of methane is very low.

Based on the state of the Martian atmosphere and the arid soil scientists believe that the most likely source of methane is groundwater organisms. And an indirect confirmation of this possibility are recent findings rover "Opportunity". This week, toward the edge of a huge crater, he threw a powerful arm to the bottom of the rock. Reverse the sound of the rover is not reached. The crater was named by Bottomless Hole (Bottomless Hole). Made with Russian participation Mossbauer spectrometer on the edge of the abyss yawning too hopelessly off scale. And the rover itself miraculously pulled up on the edge of the abyss. Desperate guys from NASA's Mars rover wheels now decided to shove down stone bigger …

Already, as usual, there was a version: Mars, like Swiss cheese, riddled with holes. These holes Martian landscape, of course, do not paint, but many paradoxes explained. In Martian holes could uhnut many mysteriously died terrestrial vehicles and, in particular, the last of them — "Beagle 2". Hole instability and explain the Martian atmosphere, and too little gravity, and the absence of a magnetic field on the planet, and uterine strange sounds heard some phones.

— First version of the porous Mars made several years ago that killed an American aid "Lander" — says Professor Mitrofanov. — Natural cavity — a plausible structure of the world where there is a lot of water ice. Yes, it looks like cheese, but hardly mice can grow to such monstrous proportions to gnaw such holes. This is a joke, but on April 1 with American colleagues who work on the Martian theme, we exchanged jokes. The Americans, in my experience, are very serious mission to Mars.

So, if the "Beagle 2" is not sverzsya into the abyss, what killed the best of European vehicles? Technology Center at Harvard suggested that the cause of the discharge around the Martian atmospheric electricity. In dried atmosphere of Mars electricity can condense even from the friction of the particles of dust and sweeping storm — a phenomenon even more familiar than on Earth.
NASA is considering the possibility to send the rover to the place where, perhaps, burned alive, "Beagle". But if, on the other hand, it gnawed Martian frights and worms, highlighting at the same methane, this trip promises an even more startling discovery.

02.04.2004

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