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Friday, October 29, 2004

Evidence For Recent Marsquakes Discovered

Earthquake damage.
Earthquake damage.
Credit: Unknown
When NASA first began collecting real data on Mars, it came as a shock, a dead world in every sense of the word: no life, no water, no geological activity at all. Compared to the previous tales of a struggling civilization and vast canals, it was very much a letdown. Yet, over the years, more and more evidence has mounted that Mars may still have a remnant of fire inside. There was the discovery of a liquid core, satellite images showing lava flows an eyeblink ago geologically, and controversial organic gases in the atmosphere. Yesterday, the Southwest Research Institute announced even more evidence: strings of depressions in the Martian surface that have not subsided with age.

The question of whether Mars is still active is not an academic one. Chemicals recently discovered in the Martian atmosphere, such as ammonia and methane, can only be formed by biological or volcanic processes. If Mars is geologically dead, then it must be formed from life existing today. However, if Mars still is active, the question is undecided.

There are other important issues involved. Because these pits tend to occur along aquifers, they are an ideal location to search for life. Also, if volcanic events are still occuring, they also would be ideal places to search for life, as the energy and chemicals provided by volcanoes make them likely sites for life to shelter. The very thing that may be leading to false indications of life may actually lead us the way to surviving life.

Whatever the eventual answer, it is likely that it will not be as clear-cut as once envisioned.

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- posted by Brian @ 17:02 EST