Today, two of my Phoenix Mars Lander articles hit the front page of Digg knocking Astroengine.com offline intermittently. The reason for the popularity? It would seem that after Aviation Week reported an undisclosed Phoenix team source’s views that an “even bigger” discovery (than the scientific proof of water) was to be announced this month, only after consulting with the US President’s science advisor. Naturally many readers of the articles are suspicious of this move, after all, why consult with government officials after two months of public transparent scientific study? Surely any discovery that supports the Phoenix mission objective to understand whether the Martian landscape could support past, present or future life forms should be discussed after a clear public statement? It would appear that both the TEGA and MECA instruments have been used to derive this new data, so what has Phoenix uncovered? Let’s hope it’s not a storm in a teacup…
Before reading on, join the fun on Digg:
- Phoenix has Found Something More Compelling than Water (to Digg my Astroengine.com article)
- Phoenix About to Announce “Potential For Life” on Mars (to Digg my Universe Today article)
Hundreds of comments have been left on Digg, Universe Today and Astroengine with reader’s guesses about what Phoenix has uncovered. Many are annoyed that the NASA team have taken their preliminary results to the White House before making a public announcement, but this action is probably due to the magnitude of what has been found. Phoenix cannot directly detect past or current life forms (bacterial or otherwise), so these results will not indicate the “discovery of life.” Although the MECA instrument is capable of viewing bacterial-scale organisms (by using two microscopes), mission scientists have quickly denied that this is the nature of this discovery.
The MECA wet lab has already deduced that the Mars regolith is more like terrestrial “soil” than we previously thought, and the TEGA oven has uncovered the significant presence of water in scooped samples. Phoenix has surpassed all expectations already, so what else has it discovered? Many comments suggest there has been a new indication of organic compounds, others suggest the presence of hydrocarbons, possibly indicating the Mars regolith might have once played host to basic forms of life. Either way, I hope we aren’t going to be disappointed when the news is eventually released.
What do you think Phoenix has found?