Friday, March 25, 2011

Two mysteries in space


Naturally generated radio waves from the planet Saturn are causing challenges.  Challenges to how we understand things, anyway.  NASA scientists who operate the Cassini space probe have been measuring radio waves from Saturn in order to determine the planet's rate of rotation. Waves from Saturn's north pole repeated every 10.8 hours.  The ones from the south repeated every 10.6 hours.  Yet in March 2010, both rates of rotation converged; the southern period decreased steadily and the northern one increased, with the two finally meeting at around 10.67 hours.  What gives?

A growing number of scientists are entertaining the theory that all life here on Earth came from Mars.  That is to say, micro-organisms originating on Mars came here by way of meteorites. 
It's not all that far-fetched.  We know that in the primordial times of our solar system, Earth and Mars were quite similar in climate.  We know from recent data gathered by the rovers that water was once abundant on Mars.  We know that billions of tons of rock have been blasted off of Mars by asteroid impacts and sent traveling through space to Earth.  We know that microbes are capable of surviving such a journey in space.
It's concrete evidence that is still needed.  While the idea is an admitted long shot, scientists are already developing specialized instruments to scan for the needed DNA or RNA sample in what's being called SETG, Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes.
Are we creeping up on the idea that there was once life on Mars?  As I already mentioned, there was once water all over that planet and the likelihood of at least microbial life looks more and more probable.  What does this mean for the notion of archeological artifacts on the surface?  Without question it's a far leap to go from microbes to sentient life, but there is just this weird nagging within me, this illogical but persistent internal voice that inveighs the pat "it's a planet of red rocks and that's about it" definition for Mars.  I can't help but think that one day we're going to find out something there that we never expected. 

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