Curiosity May Have Found Ancient Martian Life Signs

Curiosity May Have Found Ancient Martian Life Signs

Photographs from the Curiosity rover have uncovered evidence that microscopic life was on Mars over 3 billion years ago.

Science is discovering all kinds of interesting details about the surface of Mars, like water, volcanoes, and more water. But let's say you were holding out for the good stuff - alien life showing that Earth wasn't the only place where it found a way. If so, the bad news is we haven't found any tripods, written languages, or other forms of civilization. But we have uncovered the next best thing: Possible signs of fossilized structures which suggest life once existed on the surface of Mars.

Now before we get too excited, this is still very much a hypothesis that, if true, would only confirm microscopic life. But according to a geobiologist writing for Astrobiology, there's enough data to make a good case for it. After carefully studying photographs of ancient sedimentary rock taken by NASA's Curiosity rover in 2012, Nora Noffke noted a strong similarity with microbial structures on Earth. Billions of years ago, microbe colonies once rearranged sediments at shallow bodies of water, leaving patterns we can study millennia later. Noffke's analysis provides significant evidence that the surface of Mars went through a similar process.

Noffke specifically pointed out that the rock structures are about 3.7 billion years old, when Earth and Martian climates were a lot more similar than today. The problem is, there's not much we can do to prove her theory until we can actually have rocks samples on Earth for study. "All I can say is, here's my hypothesis and here's all the evidence that I have," Noffke said, "although I do think that this evidence is a lot."

And before we suggest that Noffke was just doodling on pictures of rocks, she's supported her theory so well that NASA researchers are taking notice. "I've seen many papers that say 'Look, here's a pile of dirt on Mars, and here's a pile of dirt on Earth,'" planetary scientist and associate editor of Astrobiology Chris McKay explained. "That's an easy argument to make, and it's typically not very convincing. However, Noffke's paper is the most carefully done analysis of the sort that I've seen, which is why it's the first of its kind published in Astrobiology."

Until we can actually study Martian rock for ourselves, Noffke has proposed a series of measurements that can be used if similar structures are spotted by Curiosity again. It's possible another rover could be constructed that slices rock samples and studying them under a microscope, but since that's outside of Curiosity's scope it'll be some time before we know for sure.

Source: Astrobiology Magazine, via Discovery

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Makes sense that if the conditions on Mars were similar to Earth's billions of years ago (which we seem to finding more and more evidence for), that at least some life would have ended up there. After all, since we're also relatively close in space, Mars would also have been subjected to a similar bombardment of comets as the Earth, assuming that was indeed what brought life here.

We can only hope that Marauder Shields saves us before we discover Prothean ruins D:

Good job, Curiosity! I'd give you a biscuit, but you're...out of reach.

Fappy:
We can only hope that Marauder Shields saves us before we discover Prothean ruins D:

Or that XCOM has a Skyranger on standby.

Seriously, though, this seems to be reading a LOT into weathering patterns on a piece of rock that NASA tested and dismissed as just a rock already.

Hevach:

Seriously, though, this seems to be reading a LOT into weathering patterns on a piece of rock that NASA tested and dismissed as just a rock already.

Aye! There maybe no direct way of disproving this "theory". However there is equally no way to disprove the theory that this is just patterns randomly generated by moving dust, sand, and small rocks during one of the MANY dust storms that speck the planet's surface. I also have a third theory that an alien child was making symbols in the dirt many millions of years ago with a stick and these are what remains of that today. Prove me wrong!

Deathfish15:

Hevach:

Seriously, though, this seems to be reading a LOT into weathering patterns on a piece of rock that NASA tested and dismissed as just a rock already.

Aye! There maybe no direct way of disproving this "theory". However there is equally no way to disprove the theory that this is just patterns randomly generated by moving dust, sand, and small rocks during one of the MANY dust storms that speck the planet's surface. I also have a third theory that an alien child was making symbols in the dirt many millions of years ago with a stick and these are what remains of that today. Prove me wrong!

Can you prove there is no invisible teapot orbiting mars?

Thats not how it works really. you make a claim and you have to prove it. you cant prove a negative, thus asking proof it is not is illogical.

Cool!
So the next step is just to get some samples from Mars, or a thing to Mars via which we can study the sample(s).
No problem, right?
Keep at it people :D

Ultimately, proving there was life on Mars isn't that important as far as Mars itself goes. The significance would be this: if there was ever life -even microscopic life- on Mars, that proves that Earth is not a unique case. And if Earth is not unique, then the sheer size of the universe then dictates that we probably are not the only planet with macroscopic life either. So microscopic life on Mars indicates that ET may have a phone at home.

Not that we'd likely ever find him. Sheer size of the universe and all that.

Deathfish15:
"theory"

*hypothesis. A theory is a more grounded, tested and peer reviewed explanation to how things work and the only reason why it's not considered a fact is because the scientific method demands that it's kept open for speculation.

The more people realize the very important difference between these two words, the better.

OT: The thing with life is that's it's pretty much like herpes of planets. Once you got it, you pretty much got it for good, or that's at least our experience with Earth. Life tends to thrive in the most inhospitable of places, as long as it got some access to water. Thus if Curiosity has the equipment to look for evidence of life, it should find evidence of it all over the place. If it wasn't equipped with said equipment, why the hell not?

I just want to note that if this proves to be true and there was any form of life on mars, that it is not good news at all. But to be honest I don't think that that will be the case.

VoEC:
I just want to note that if this proves to be true and there was any form of life on mars, that it is not good news at all. But to be honest I don't think that that will be the case.

Why is this "not good news at all" ? I can't see any reason why this is a bad thing, aside from knee jerk reactions of idiot, religious fundamentalists. But they already have idiotic knee jerk reactions to everything under the sun, so what's one more thing for them to flip their shit about? Seriously, why would this be a bad thing?

Happyninja42:
Why is this "not good news at all" ? I can't see any reason why this is a bad thing, aside from knee jerk reactions of idiot, religious fundamentalists. But they already have idiotic knee jerk reactions to everything under the sun, so what's one more thing for them to flip their shit about? Seriously, why would this be a bad thing?

"Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."

― Arthur C. Clarke

TERRORADE:

Happyninja42:
Why is this "not good news at all" ? I can't see any reason why this is a bad thing, aside from knee jerk reactions of idiot, religious fundamentalists. But they already have idiotic knee jerk reactions to everything under the sun, so what's one more thing for them to flip their shit about? Seriously, why would this be a bad thing?

"Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."

― Arthur C. Clarke

Hey I can quote things too. "Bring me everyone." "EVEEEERYONE!" - Gary Oldman - The Professional

Your quote doesn't actually answer my question, it's a quaint quote by a good author, but it's ultimately wrong. You know how I know it's wrong, I don't find either idea terrifying. I find one statistically improbable, and the other an optimistic outlook on the universe. So again I ask, why would finding ancient microbial life on a planet be a bad thing?

Happyninja42:

TERRORADE:

Happyninja42:
Why is this "not good news at all" ? I can't see any reason why this is a bad thing, aside from knee jerk reactions of idiot, religious fundamentalists. But they already have idiotic knee jerk reactions to everything under the sun, so what's one more thing for them to flip their shit about? Seriously, why would this be a bad thing?

"Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."

― Arthur C. Clarke

Hey I can quote things too. "Bring me everyone." "EVEEEERYONE!" - Gary Oldman - The Professional

Your quote doesn't actually answer my question, it's a quaint quote by a good author, but it's ultimately wrong. You know how I know it's wrong, I don't find either idea terrifying. I find one statistically improbable, and the other an optimistic outlook on the universe. So again I ask, why would finding ancient microbial life on a planet be a bad thing?

It's really not a bad thing. Not in the least. I suppose it would have a lot of people looking out windows and contemplating their hands, thinking to themselves: "Huh, so we know for sure we're not alone out here? I mean shit, we all knew it was the most probable outcome, but uhm...huh...life exist somewhere else. Neat."

But there's nothing bad about it at all.

Also that Arthur C. Clarke quote is neat and all, but it's really just him telling a short story, in a way. A scarier question is if we're not alone out here, where's everybody else? The simple answers in my opinion are: distance, time, and convenience.

Distance being that we're just so far out, or merely placed in a position where we can't see or register any of the other intelligent activity in our galaxy (if there is any at all). Also space is fucking big.

Time being that things are relatively "new" in our galaxy so the amount of civilization even capable of utilizing radio waves, let alone space travel are EXTREMELY few and far between.

And convenience being the simple fact that space travel is a pain in the ass and any civilizations that can even attempt it have either just given up or simply didn't feel the need to try in the first place.

The other answers? A lot more complicated but fun to ponder:http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/fermi-paradox.html

TheNaut131:
It's really not a bad thing. Not in the least. I suppose it would have a lot of people looking out windows and contemplating their hands, thinking to themselves: "Huh, so we know for sure we're not alone out here? I mean shit, we all knew it was the most probable outcome, but uhm...huh...life exist somewhere else. Neat."

But there's nothing bad about it at all.

Exactly. The poster I was replying to just made a vague doom and gloom proclamation without actually explaining anything. The reality is that some people would still deny it, and the rest of the population would likely go "Huh, ok, ancient microbes, that's neat, who's on American Idol now?" I admit I will probably be in the 2nd camp, though I don't watch American Idol, simply because the idea of life elsewhere in the universe is such a non-issue to me, that it won't really flicker on my radar. I'll find it neat, and be optimistic that we found evidence on the nearest planet to us, which means other habitats might be as likely to have life, like Europa for example. But it won't blow my mind.

TheNaut131:
Also that Arthur C. Clarke quote is neat and all, but it's really just him telling a short story, in a way. A scarier question is if we're not alone out here, where's everybody else? The simple answers in my opinion are: distance, time, and convenience.

Oh I'm familiar with the quote, my point was it's:
1. False, because at least one person (me) doesn't find either idea terrifying.
2. Didn't actually answer my question at all.

As for the "where's everybody else" aspect of it. I dunno, I've always attributed the lack of contact to the myriad of barriers to interstellar communication, and equated it to being on the West coast of the US, and wondering why you can't see/hear anyone in China, and thus assuming that since you haven't heard them speak to you yet, they must not exist. It's a long damn way, and will take years/centuries/more to communicate. That makes it difficult to pick up signals, assuming anyone's looking in the right direction.

TheNaut131:
Distance being that we're just so far out, or merely placed in a position where we can't see or register any of the other intelligent activity in our galaxy (if there is any at all). Also space is fucking big.

Indeed it is, so big in fact, that any communcation between planets would likely be a generational thing. Sending a message out and hoping 100+ years from now to hear a response. Actual travel from system to system is highly unlikely, why, I would go so far as to say astronomically unlikely! See what I did there? It's a pun! Astronomically unlikely! We're talking about astronomy! xD *coughs embarrassed*

TheNaut131:
Time being that things are relatively "new" in our galaxy so the amount of civilization even capable of utilizing radio waves, let alone space travel are EXTREMELY few and far between.

True, though I've always been of the opinion that we were able to pull it off in this much time, assuming another biosphere had the same amount of time to "cook", it seems likely (to me anyway), that civilizations on par with us are probably pretty common.

TheNaut131:
And convenience being the simple fact that space travel is a pain in the ass and any civilizations that can even attempt it have either just given up or simply didn't feel the need to try in the first place.

Yep! More likely that it's just totally impractical, and nobody's got the level of tech to even come close to pulling it off.

Scars Unseen:
Ultimately, proving there was life on Mars isn't that important as far as Mars itself goes. The significance would be this: if there was ever life -even microscopic life- on Mars, that proves that Earth is not a unique case. And if Earth is not unique, then the sheer size of the universe then dictates that we probably are not the only planet with macroscopic life either. So microscopic life on Mars indicates that ET may have a phone at home.

Well, that and the general public gets excited by the idea of life on Mars. More the latter, I think, though it should be the former.

Happyninja42:
True, though I've always been of the opinion that we were able to pull it off in this much time, assuming another biosphere had the same amount of time to "cook", it seems likely (to me anyway), that civilizations on par with us are probably pretty common.

What do you mean "on par"? Life has existed for billions of years on Earth, if another planet developed life, and technology, odds are it'd be at least thousands of years above or below us, likely millions.

Happyninja42:

TheNaut131:
And convenience being the simple fact that space travel is a pain in the ass and any civilizations that can even attempt it have either just given up or simply didn't feel the need to try in the first place.

Yep! More likely that it's just totally impractical, and nobody's got the level of tech to even come close to pulling it off.

I find that hard to believe. Humanity could have evolved millions of years earlier than it did (or later, of course). Suppose the extinction event that removed the dinosaurs happened much the same way, but a million years earlier or later, for example.

Give humanity an entire million years to play with, and provided we don't destroy ourselves first, we'd have spread out across the galaxy quite some amount.

Happyninja42:

VoEC:
I just want to note that if this proves to be true and there was any form of life on mars, that it is not good news at all. But to be honest I don't think that that will be the case.

Why is this "not good news at all" ? I can't see any reason why this is a bad thing, aside from knee jerk reactions of idiot, religious fundamentalists. But they already have idiotic knee jerk reactions to everything under the sun, so what's one more thing for them to flip their shit about? Seriously, why would this be a bad thing?

No, I did not mean bad news for religous fundementalists (but I presume that would be bad news for them also). :)

It would be bad news because it means that humanity as a whole is more likely to die off.
It basicly has something to do with the question why we have so far never seen any signs of very high level intelligence (like Star Trek, whole-galaxy exploring, intelligent) even though there are billions of stars out there with possible habitable planets where life could have formed.
The idea is that not seeing any advanced species other than on earth means either (A) we are alone or (B) there is some kind of event that sooner or later wipes all life of a species that has become powerful enough (like nuking itself, which in someway almost happened to us during the cold war). So there is basicly a bottleneck that every species has to get through.
So finding life on another planet (especially one that is right next to us) means that we are not alone or "special" at all and probably are going to die off soon like all the other speicies on other planets before us.

I really didn't do those ideas justice but this here is a pretty good article about it: http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/fermi-paradox.html
I highly recommend reading that, it is super interesting.

Anyway, I hope this helped :)
Finding other lifeforms on a different planet would be really a discovery that would spark big changes and would be very exciting, but as I described also very terrifing.

Fappy:
We can only hope that Marauder Shields saves us before we discover Prothean ruins D:

Hevach:

Or that XCOM has a SkyrangerAvenger on standby.

Or that we start training several mute Marines to send to Mars in case someone starts experimenting with teleportation and interdimensional gates. (don't forget to "accidentally" send few electric chainsaws to Mars as well)

VoEC:

No, I did not mean bad news for religous fundementalists (but I presume that would be bad news for them also). :)

Meh, screw them, their pain makes me laugh in it's idiocy. xD

VoEC:
It would be bad news because it means that humanity as a whole is more likely to die off.

....That's a bit of a stretch just from finding fossilized microbes on another planet. Wait, let me clarify that. Of course humanity is going to die off some day. It's pretty much a statistical given. But finding some old fossils on another planet, somehow increases the likelihood of this happening? That's a bit far fetched.

VoEC:
It basicly has something to do with the question why we have so far never seen any signs of very high level intelligence (like Star Trek, whole-galaxy exploring, intelligent) even though there are billions of stars out there with possible habitable planets where life could have formed.

Please don't use sci fi shows as your baseline for how intelligent life/cultures would operate in the real world. That's risky behavior.

VoEC:
The idea is that not seeing any advanced species other than on earth means either (A) we are alone or (B) there is some kind of event that sooner or later wipes all life of a species that has become powerful enough (like nuking itself, which in someway almost happened to us during the cold war). So there is basicly a bottleneck that every species has to get through.

...ooooor, (C) They are at a tech level roughly equivalent to us, and are thus only barely able to accurately detect stuff going on in the universe around them, and that the farther away the location in question is, the less accurate their data is. (D) They're really freaking far away, and it's going to take 1000 years for the signals they're currently churning out to even reach our neck of the woods, and (E)We're even looking for the signal at that time.

There are waaay more possibilities then the 2 you presented to explain it.

VoEC:
So finding life on another planet (especially one that is right next to us) means that we are not alone or "special" at all and probably are going to die off soon like all the other speicies on other planets before us.

Define "soon" for me. I'm curious what timeframe you consider "soon". Are you talking like the next few years? The next century? The next 100,000 years? Astronomically speaking sure, even a timeframe as long as 100,000 years, or even millions is "soon", but for us, that's a loooong time to try and do stuff to prolong our existence.

VoEC:
I really didn't do those ideas justice but this here is a pretty good article about it: http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/fermi-paradox.html
I highly recommend reading that, it is super interesting.

I'm familiar with fermi's paradox, but find it flawed in a lot of ways.

VoEC:
Anyway, I hope this helped :)
Finding other lifeforms on a different planet would be really a discovery that would spark big changes and would be very exciting, but as I described also very terrifing.

Eh, I still don't see it. Honestly on Earth, most humans won't really care at all if they confirm it. Most will be like "yeah cool, does it help me pay my bills, and help me with my kid's medical expenses? No? Then I don't really care", and will go about their daily lives as normal. And honestly, it won't impact the regular life on our planet at all. Having one more data point for life in the universe will have zero impact on our lives. For scientists it will be a huge event, and for various religious groups it will probably be a headache they have to spin doctor around to justify their hoodoo, but in the end, it's not going to make any big change. And here's why. People don't care about microbes. They don't. If Curiosty found evidence of intelligent life, then humanity would be more interested. But microbes that have been dead for millions of years before we were even looking for them? Meh, they won't care.

And I still don't see it as terrifying, I see it as comforting and optimistic. As you say, if humanity dies, well so what? Cosmically it's not a big deal, for us it's important sure, but that's self interest kicking in. But, if we have evidence that life is common in the universe, then if humanity dies, well, no big deal, "life will go on" as they say. Somewhere in the universe, something somewhere will be living, and experiencing, and carrying on with their lives, maybe in a way similar to us. Loving, laughing, exploring, investigating, etc. I take comfort in that, we're not a special snowflake, but that's a good thing, it means that life is more common and resilient than just our little ball of mud and water. Hundreds, maybe millions of cultures out there, like us, living our lives under the dome of the stars, sending out our dreams and hopes into the cosmos, to maybe be heard by some other culture long after we're gone, like echoes of a song in the hills. Is that really a bad thing? I don't think so.

Fappy:
We can only hope that Marauder Shields saves us before we discover Prothean ruins D:

Oh man, I totally forgot about him.
It's bad because I'm playing Mass Effect 3 for the second time. >.<

Let us hope the ending to our story is better.

RIP Marauder Shields. 2186 CE - 2186 CE.

VoEC:

Happyninja42:

VoEC:
I just want to note that if this proves to be true and there was any form of life on mars, that it is not good news at all. But to be honest I don't think that that will be the case.

Why is this "not good news at all" ? I can't see any reason why this is a bad thing, aside from knee jerk reactions of idiot, religious fundamentalists. But they already have idiotic knee jerk reactions to everything under the sun, so what's one more thing for them to flip their shit about? Seriously, why would this be a bad thing?

No, I did not mean bad news for religous fundementalists (but I presume that would be bad news for them also). :)

It would be bad news because it means that humanity as a whole is more likely to die off.
It basicly has something to do with the question why we have so far never seen any signs of very high level intelligence (like Star Trek, whole-galaxy exploring, intelligent) even though there are billions of stars out there with possible habitable planets where life could have formed.
The idea is that not seeing any advanced species other than on earth means either (A) we are alone or (B) there is some kind of event that sooner or later wipes all life of a species that has become powerful enough (like nuking itself, which in someway almost happened to us during the cold war). So there is basicly a bottleneck that every species has to get through.
So finding life on another planet (especially one that is right next to us) means that we are not alone or "special" at all and probably are going to die off soon like all the other speicies on other planets before us.

I really didn't do those ideas justice but this here is a pretty good article about it: http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/fermi-paradox.html
I highly recommend reading that, it is super interesting.

Anyway, I hope this helped :)
Finding other lifeforms on a different planet would be really a discovery that would spark big changes and would be very exciting, but as I described also very terrifing.

I've heard a lot of theories over the years about aliens both positive and negative. This ranges from everything to aliens keeping earth as an anal bordello, to lengthy "mathematically sound" scientist quoting rants by groups like Extra Credit that we have to be alone (or space travel impossible) because otherwise we'd have contact with aliens already.

My basic attitude is that our knowledge is currently too limited to predict all the variables. That said our most basic mistake is assuming that if we were discovered by aliens that they would want to just fly up and introduce themselves or immediately set about conquering us. Scientists always go on about how on earth less civilized peoples always get conquered or eliminated when more civilized ones encounter them. The idea being that if aliens found earth they would immediately set about eliminating us and colonizing the planet (assuming such worlds are as rare as they seem) and/or stealing all our resources. Something I've always found odd when one of the big things our more civilized and technological civilizations have done is gotten away from that and even looks back at the past with regret. In a lot of our speculative fiction one of the first things we address is policies like Star Trek's "Prime Directive" we would likely put into force to prevent such things. To me it's struck me as odd that we assume an alien civilization would be less moral than we are out of hand, and wouldn't have created policies similar to the ones we ourselves consider.

That said another point that tends to slot people off when I bring it up, is that humanity is not united. We do not have any kind of government that can speak for us on a planetary or species-wide level in dealing with other interstellar civilizations. As much as a lot of liberals detest the point, earth could not deal with the universe at large while divided into multiple nations and cultures, nobody could trust us, and it would be a pain in the arse if they had to wait for some kind of consensus before we do even simple things. Any way it goes we would likely need one world government before we would be contacted, even if there aren't other requirements such as having developed our own space faring technologies (in Star Trek a species needs to have a functioning Warp Drive before it can be contacted). Basically someone needs to unite, or conquer, the world. I also don't think we'll even be able to do much in the solar system on our own even without aliens as long as we remain divided as well.

To put it bluntly here as well, while aliens might be able to deal with any of the first world civilizations, understand that huge amounts of our planet also remain in barbarity. The Middle East is still governed by religion and keeps women as slaves for example. Asia, south and central America, the continental hellhole we call Africa. With the state of so much of humanity they would probably be unwilling to enter dialogue with even current world powers given that we could very well be transient in a world where nations like Pakistan have nuclear weapons and countries like Iran and North Korea are well on their way. This goes along with the divided earth bit above, basically if aliens landed in the US, UK, or other civilized first world nation that they could deal with, it could set off a war as barbarian nations strike out of fear the possible advantage that could grant. Not to mention that if such aliens ever dealt with these nations and acknowledged themselves as earth authorities, they might become obligated to get involved in wars down here just to preserve them. I mention this because there are some conspiracy theories that speculate that this already happened and started "World War II" a lot of Hitler's scientific edge having come from alien benefactors who pulled out when they realized Hitler wasn't going to be able to unite the world or impose order without more direct intervention. Not likely, but I doubt aliens would want to get involved in things like this any more than we would in visiting alien plants.

Basically all rambling aside, my basic attitude is that if there are aliens out there I think they wouldn't be contacting us yet and we'd be being kept intentionally isolated, probably until humans unite the world for good or ill, or we get craft outside our solar system, perhaps both.

 

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