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How to Look for Life on Mars

?and maybe live there ourselves someday - On Mars, NASA has found both methane gas and rocks that contain carbonates. Why is this important? The rocks show that the water on Mars is not too acidic to support life?otherwise, carbonates couldn't form. And the methane could be a byproduct of plant decay, meaning that life is already there.

Large amounts of methane gas have been detected shooting up into the atmosphere through fissures in the planet's surface. These could be produced by volcanoes or by decaying plant life under the ice. Methane is quickly destroyed by sunlight, and since it spews out regularly, this means it is somehow being replenished. BBC News quotes UK space scientist Andrew Coates as saying, "The observation of short-lived, seasonally varying clouds of methane from specific regions on Mars is a tantalizing result. It shows there must be an underground source, past or present."

In BBC News, Jonathan Amos quotes researcher Bethany Ehlmann as saying, "You want to get an environment that is basically as clement as possible, that's not difficult to live in. It's difficult to live in a highly acidic environment; it's difficult to live in a very salty environment. If you have neutral waters then that presents a less difficult environment for microbial life."

Art credit: gimp-savvy.com

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