Friday, July 03, 2009

Life on Mars tantalisingly closer

Analysis of images from the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera, on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter seems to indicate that warming weather on Mars may have melted ice-rich soils as recently as 2 million years ago. The geographical features that point to this event were originally thought to have been volcanic in origin, but Matthew Balme, a research scientist with the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute has looked afresh at the images and now believes they were formed by the expansion and contraction of ice due to freeze/thaw cycles. If true, then the equator region would be an ideal place to look for signs of past life.