Researchers who are searching for evidence of water and organic compounds on Mars need to know how to recognize Martian life forms if Mars rocks are eventually brought back to Earth. Peter Buseck and Martha McCartney, of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, decided that clues can be found in bacteria here on Earth.

They were hired by NASA to develop reliable criteria for identifying traces of life, or ?biomarkers,? for use during future astrobiology missions. They decided that the study of organisms from Earth is the best way to start. Buseck says, ?If you find something in extraterrestrial samples that resembles life on Earth then it?s reasonable to think that you have found traces of life? on other planets.
read more

A University of Southern California scientist says that experiments done more than 20 years ago on Martian soil collected by Viking landers 1 and 2 show that life exists on Mars in the form of microbes. The significance of that finding was overlooked and the data was lost after NASA concluded that its experiments showed only signs of chemical activity on the surface of Mars, according to Joseph Miller, a USC neurobiologist. But a careful reexamination of a fragment of the recovered NASA record shows a surprising pattern: gas released by the Martian soil and tracked by Viking followed the same kind of rhythms followed by all Earth-bound organisms from humans to fruit flies. ?I think, basically, that it?s bugs,” says Miller.
read more

New images from NASA?s Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft show signs of recent climate change dating back about 100,000 years instead of millions or billions, including ?megafloods? that may have triggered climate changes, extensive terrain that closely mimics permafrost areas on Earth, lake beds, and gullies that have drained water and debris on the Martian surface within the past several million years.

Probably the most important evidence are the tell-tale signs of very recent glaciers. The presence of glaciers means that Mars once was a lot warmer and that there was much more water on the Martian surface.
read more

An enormous dust storm is taking place on Mars, shrouding the planet in haze and raising the temperature of its atmosphere an amazing 54 degrees Fahrenheit. It?s the largest such storm in 25 years and still growing. The storm is so big that amateur astronomers using 8 to 10 inch telescopes can see it from Earth.
read more