Life On Mars: Scientists May Have Found Lichen In Mars; But They Could Be Wrong

Scientists argued that there could potentially be lichen-like organisms in Mars but their results are inconclusivePhoto taken by the Opportunity Rover in Mars that supposedly prove life existence in the Planet

Extra-terrestrial life is a favorite subject in a lot of conspiracy theories and random conversation among people around the world. Many have believed that there is life outside our planet and they are more advanced than us. They subscribe to the theory that aliens have visited Earth in the past to help prehistoric humans build civilizations and giant structures that conspiracy theorists claim to have not been made solely by human citing the lack of technology necessary to achieve such feat during those times.

On Monday, another piece of evidence to the conspiracy of life outside Earth have surfaced. This time, it is backed by science. A group of researchers has published in the Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Reviews a paper saying that they may have found evidence of life currently living in Mars.

The researchers argue that a fungi-like ‘growth’ found on Mars is indicative of a microbial life that could have been existing in the planet. The paper cites their observations of the photos taken by the retired Opportunity Rover. The left panoramic camera captured the image below on Sol 37 (37th Martian day), showing lobes that may be lichen growing on Mars.

Images taken by Opportunity Rover supposedly depicting lichens in Mars.

According to the co-author of the paper, Dr. Regina Dass of the Department of Microbiology, School of Life Sciences in India, the suspected microorganism has spores on the surrounding surface. “There are no geological or other abiogenic forces on Earth which can produce sedimentary structures, by the hundreds, which have mushroom shapes, stems, stalks, and shed what looks like spores on the surrounding surface,” she said.

An image the researchers provided that was taken on Sol 257 by Mars Opportunity Rover

“In fact, fifteen specimens were photographed by NASA growing out of the ground in just three days.”

The authors of the paper offer the varying amount of methane in Mars as additional proof to their discovery. They said that the fact that there are measurable differences in the amount of methane in the atmosphere based on the season adds credibility to the claims of microbial life’s existence on Mars.

They explained: “On Earth, 90% of methane is produced biologically by living and decaying organisms and released as a waste product by prokaryotes certain species of fungi. Terrestrial atmospheric methane levels also vary with the seasons and are directly attributed to biological activity.”

The researchers hypothesized that this phenomenon is like “breathing” for the planet. It exhales methane when things warm up, and the supposed life wakes up; and when it gets cold in the fall/winter, life ‘goes to sleep’ or is otherwise less active, resulting in lower methane.

he researchers compared the images taken by Opportunity Rover to Earth-bound lichen seen above.

Nonetheless, the findings of the researchers are inconclusive. Meaning, there is not enough evidence to support the claims that what has been observing is a life form and there is also not enough evidence to prove the contrary.

“Admittedly, abiogenic factors can’t be ruled out. Conversely, at present, there is no microscopic evidence depicting cells or intra-cellular structure and thus no definitive proof of Martian life. Moreover, although organisms can survive in space or in simulated Mars-like environments, there is no proof they can flourish on Mars. It is also very difficult to distinguish, with a high level of confidence, between what may be living organisms vs. sedimentary structures.”

The paper disclaims that similarities in morphology are not proof of life existence. They said that their evidence is circumstantial and not rise to the level of “extraordinary evidence” thus precluding “extraordinary claims.” Although collectively, the evidence, in total, weighs in favor of biology, we can only conclude that the question of life on Mars remains unanswered, the researchers said.

Furthermore, they also raised the possibility that what they have observed are inorganic structures. “It is possible these latter specimens are hematite and what appears to be “growth” is due to a strong wind which uncovered these specimens,” they wrote.

They said that this explanation could not account for before and after photos of what appears to be masses of fungi growing atop and within the Mars rovers.

“Terrestrial hematite is in part fashioned and cemented together by prokaryotes and fungi, and thus Martian hematite may also be evidence of biology.”

Bottom line: the researchers don’t know what those are, but they said it could be possible to be a life form. They also admitted that it could be an inorganic structure as well. But, who knows?

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