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[ Posted : 04.14.04 ]


Methane on Mars: Or … “Back to the Future …?”

By Richard C. Hoagland
© 2004 The Enterprise Mission

Part 3


Four decades later, another astronomer -- Dr. Serguei Mikhailovich Pershin -- carried out a different search for chlorophyll on Mars. This technique utilized the major quantum leap (over 1950’s IR technology) represented by the Hubble. This is how we described Pershin’s still unnoticed -- but now extremely relevant work (in light of the “new” methane discoveries) -- in an earlier Enterprise paper:


“Pershin is a Russian space scientist, who, in 1985, developed a space borne, remote- sensing laser experiment for the 1988 Russian Phobos Mission. In 1996, another of his experiments – a compact aerosol backscattering lidar ("light detection and ranging" laser instrument), capable of measuring the composition of the Martian atmosphere from a balloon or landed spacecraft – won a competition for inclusion by NASA on the ill-fated 1999 Mars Polar Lander Mission . (Pershin’s instrument was the first and only experiment from Russia to be flown on a United States Mars mission.)

“In 1998, Pershin – utilizing narrow-band images taken with the Hubble Telescope, and computer-processing them as multi-spectral band ratios – initiated the first follow-up to Sinton’s controversial observations in forty years … announcing that he’d discovered strong indications of red chlorophyll pigment fluorescence (induced by ultraviolet solar energy) from certain regions of the planet . These curiously enhanced regions (below, far right) were similar to narrow-band enhancements he’d detected in his laboratory laser experiments, using UV lasers as remote sensing tools to excite the chlorophyll emissions from a variety of terrestrial soil samples.


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“Pershin’s conclusions, even as a Russian scientist, only loosely associated with NASA, were carefully "politic": that he’d discovered only "relic organic pigments… from potentially former living organisms ….", but not evidence of current Martian life. In truth, raw ultraviolet light reaching the Martian surface would quickly destroy any exposed [truly ancient] "fossil chlorophyll." So, if Pershin’s results are valid, they have to be produced by living organisms!”


Well, almost living ….

In fact, after further calculation, even when a chlorophyll-bearing plant died on Mars (assuming in this scenario such organisms exist), there would ensue an uncertain period of time -- years, perhaps even decades -- when that chlorophyll would remain essentially intact; even raw solar ultraviolet light would take significant time to eradicate all traces of the molecule – especially, if evolution in a higher UV background (Mars?) had incorporated additional molecules around the chlorophyll, to precisely inhibit such destructive radiation to a living plant.


If the “fossil Martian chlorophyll” Pershin conclusively detected just six years ago from Hubble, was indeed from “former living organisms” -- perhaps from living plant life dead only a comparatively brief period – then the Russian astronomer could easily have measured some surviving “relic chlorophyll” … still unaltered, and localized in the classic “dark regions” (once the most densely living) of the planet.

But, how could this be possible? How could vast stretches of once living vegetation, on an entire planet, so rapidly die off … that -- just before the coming of the “space age” -- Mars had literally “died!?”

The answer is: in this scenario, it didn’t “die” -- but just went into a cyclic “seasonal suspended animation” … until a new “coming Martian Spring” ….

One of the increasingly enigmatic Martian observations, made by the unprecedented “fleet” of unmanned spacecraft currently sending back extraordinary data, is compelling news that -- before our eyes – Mars has changed … is changing. The evidence is most compelling: multiple images – from Viking, Mars Odyssey and Mars Surveyor – all showing unmistakable signs of major climate change … now occurring across Mars.

The examples range from, side-by-side comparisons of literal melting (and disappearance) of key features at the Martian poles between 1999 and 2001 (below)—


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-- to, increasing evidence that the ground ice in certain equatorial regions we first predicted -- based on our Mars Tidal Model -- is also melting … creating dark and mysterious surface features we believe are intimately connected, which we originally discovered in 2000 (below), now called “stains” or “seeps.” Originally dismissed by NASA scientists as merely “avalanches,” recent scientific journal papers on these features have finally admitted possible involvement of liquid water, and reported significant new developments:



The number of “stains” (officially called “streaks”) imaged by the two currently operating NASA orbital spacecraft over Mars is rapidly increasing – and, at an accelerating rate! According to the authors of one paper:


“… either there is a complete turnover within a few decades or the streak population is currently increasing rapidly. Large spatial, as well as possible temporal, variations in the formation rate are obtained from these data. Streaks do not appear to fade over time periods comparable to their inverse formation rate of ~28 years, as seen by analysis of Viking Orbiter images containing streaks that are still visible in MOC images [emphasis added].


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In other words ….


Mars is melting!!

Mainstream models notwithstanding -- which predicate prior episodes of global climate warming based on calculated changing obliquity shifts (axis tilts) of Mars -- there is no current shift in the spin axis of the plane! Thus, there is no scientific explanation in the mainstream NASA view to account for an obvious and global “global warming” currently taking place on Mars. There is, however, our own Hyperdimensional Energy Model – which predicts precisely what we’re seeing in the NASA images ….

In 2002 we wrote a short paper – “Global Warming on Mars?; The Hyperdimensional Connection” -- summarizing a range of these examples. While some may argue with specific images, the consensus even among mainstream planetary scientists looking at the data coming down from Mars Odyssey and Mars Surveyor is that Mars – for unknown reasons – is definitely warming up.

Some examples, presented side-by-side with equivalent satellite imaging from Earth, are simply striking: such as this comparison (below) -- between the famous “Great Salt Lake” in Utah and an eerily similar, very liquid-looking and deepening Mars “Lake Laney” (so named by us, because Keith did the image processing of the original Odyssey color data). For those who still believe (ala the earlier Mariner fly-bys) that large bodies of liquid, standing water on Mars are currently impossible, we simply refer you to recently published laboratory work indicating just the opposite!


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Finally, the imaging OMEGA spectrometer on Mars Express (below) revealed a surprising (and apparently significantly larger) quantity of water ice at the Martian southern pole -- far more than previous missions, going back to Mariner 69, had indicated. If the planet is indeed warming, and on a timescale of only decades, this would be one of the earliest indicators … as the water released via increasing ground temperatures melting the ground ice from the two former equatorial oceans in summer, in the winter would migrate to the poles and fall as ordinary snow, thus increasing the observable water ice on the surface of the polar ice caps.



So, what does this all mean?

If the current methane observations are indeed evidence of living Martian organisms, it is more than likely that they are the surviving remains of a once flourishing, far more complex Martian ecosystem. But, even if the methane is not from living microbes now -- as has been noted previously, the source is more than likely due to venting of long-buried methane pockets, created by that same extensive Martian biosphere … before whatever catastrophe ensued ….

Either way, in the Tidal Model, the now confirmed “rediscovery” of methane opens the door to unprecedented possibilities for an entire “living Mars” … including—

That Mars could once have been a home … to ancient “Martians.”

If Mars is significantly warming -- as the various independent lines of accumulating evidence seem strongly to confirm -- it is on an impossibly short time scale according to any current NASA calculation. It is therefore at least a possibility that these observed changes are due to the larger, solar-system-wide, Hyperdimensional Physics we’ve previously identified … that is also definitely changing (we shall be publishing an entire, more definitive paper on this important development in the near future).

All this means that another “Martian Spring” – for whatever life forms are remaining – could be coming ….

It means that the “distinct and repeating Martian seasons” … the annual “waves of darkening, emanating alternately from each pole” ... and the “dark areas turning an unmistakable blue-green each Martian spring” -- all observed and carefully recorded by the giants of 19th century astronomy, Schiaparelli, Lowell, Antoniadi and the rest -- are possibly returning ….


The startling possibility that the most well known marker of this 19th Century Mars -- its infamous “canals” -- may also have been real all along ….


This is how Lowell described them in 1908, in "Mars, As The Abode of Life":

"There are celestial sights more dazzling, spectacles that inspire more awe, but to the thoughtful observer who is privileged to see them well, there is nothing in the sky so profoundly impressive as these canals of Mars. Fine lines and little gossamer filaments only, cobwebbing the face of the Martian disc, but threads to draw one’s mind after them across the millions of miles of intervening void …”


It now seems possible, because of this “coming Martian Spring,” that even that most mysterious of all the Martian puzzles recorded just decades ago – which seemed to completely vanish once the Space Age dawned, much to the derision of Lowell and the other 19th Century astronomers who saw them -- may also become visible … again.



In the summer of 2000, immediately following a “major NASA briefing” detailing evidence of recent water flows in some areas of Mars, we proposed a striking alternative explanation: that the curious features indicated by the NASA team were, in fact, caused by nothing less than “surface leaks from the deterioration and decay of a vast, underground, artificial water transport system.” In part we said:


“… if you have pipes, and you run water through them, what happens when the temperature gets too low?

“The pipes burst!

“This is why the water is being found in the cold regions pointing away from the sun. Because a system designed for use in a much warmer epoch (maybe only tens of thousands of years ago) is failing when the temperature causes the pipes to expand and burst. This is why the water is being found out of the sun and toward the poles! Because the sun is keeping the water in a liquid, flowing state closer to the equator.

“The implications of this are vast. So are the stakes ….”


Less than a month later, we discovered our first “seep” -- apparent liquid water … leaking from “some source underground.”

Only a few days before that, we had made perhaps our most significant technological discovery on Mars since the Face itself: a huge, obvious underground glass tunnel – partially unearthed (below). Its scale alone – almost a thousand feet wide, and several miles in length – was a major clue that this might in fact be a component of nothing less than Lowell ’s ancient irrigation system of “canals” ….


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In other regions, several “glass tunnels” (and their associated geometric infrastructure) seem to parallel each other – after also being partially unearthed (below).


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Here, in the “grandest canyon” in the solar system – Vallis Marineris – another partially exhumed tunnel can be seen (below) -- branching in a familiar “Y” at the joining of two previously separated sections (below, left)


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Putting all these “dots” together:

It now seems quite possible that what we discovered in the summer of 2000 – from clear evidence of leaking water, to the multiple examples of the obvious means of transporting enormous quantities of that water across great Martian distances … underground – could finally explain this most lingering of mysteries about the Red Planet: its infamous network of canals.

But how, you might appropriately ask, could an ancient underground engineering system create visible features on the surface – ostensibly seen (and drawn) by 19th Century astronomers? How indeed ….

If the Martian climate can indeed undergo drastic cyclic variations, and on a timescale of mere decades, there is the distinct possibility that these mysterious surface features are also part of such a living cycle. That these enigmatic “linear formations” are recreated each Martian “spring” by living surface vegetation … growing directly over the massive, buried planetary network of an “ancient, now leaking, high-tech water transport system” – composed of our glass tunnels.

In the March, 2004 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, Thomas Dobbins and William Sheehan present a fascinating new case for some of the classical “Lowellian canals” seemingly returning … their being objectively recorded during the 2003 Closest Approach -- by the unprecedented CCD and webcam electronic imaging technology now available to amateur astronomers world wide. As can be seen (below), a comparison of one of Lowell ’s old planetary charts from 1895 and a modern webcam image from 2003, reveal an amazing degree of commonality ... for a supposed “figment” of Lowell ’s imagination!

[Elsewhere, Eric Lausch (under the nome de plume of “Johnny Danger”) has written a thoughtful, highly cogent and extensive analysis titled “Lowell’s Legacy,” on just what our ancient, buried tunnel network, in the coming “Martian Spring,” might mean. I strongly recommend it, in the present context ….]


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These exciting possibilities -- with strong hints of many more to come (remember: Mars Express carries the MARSIS radar, which can detect not only underground pools of liquid water 3 miles below the surface … but surface pools as well) -- create a totally revolutionary context for the “new” methane observations of the last few days ... that “Martian Spring” may indeed have come again.

And, if Spring is coming … in light of the earlier Mariner ’69 foreshadowing, in light of the President’s recent annunciation of a “grander vision” for humanity itself -- can a similar season of “renewal and reawakening” in Washington be far behind … concerning other “Martian revelations” …?


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Stay tuned.


Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | ^

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