by Mirko Elviro

The possibility of existence of life forms on other planets has always charmed men. But only in fairly recent times the means with which we can explore celestial bodies in a scientific manner have become available. Countless probes have been launched toward planets belonging to our solar system, to study their characteristics and to understand if any form of life may have developed on them. Among planets, Mars is still the more studied planet, both for the proximity to the Earth and mainly because it is the most Earth-similar celestial body and maybe it's able to receive any type of living organism. 

There's an opinion shared among scientists by now that says that if we'll find life on Mars, it surely won't have an evolutionary stage higher than the one of a bacterium. It's an opinion that has become a dogma with the passing of time, supported even in the presence of photographic documents, still without explanation, that could invalidate it. 

It's the case of a photo taken by MOC (Mars Orbiter Camera), a satellite for photographical mapping of Mars that, at latitude -82.02°, longitude 284.38° (near to the Martian south pole) has filmed something totally incredible, but still neglected: it's some form of vegetation on Mars.
The photo number is M08-04688

Detail of photo M08-04688 taken by MOC satellite that depicts the Mars surface (6.79 m/pixel)

As one can see in the image, shapes very similar to big trees (with branches) seen by above are visible.
For example, let's compare the MOC shot  with this other photo, that portrays a terrestrial tree: there are really many similarities.

Here's the complete "strip" taken by MOC, that shows plants becoming more and more thick, actually creating a forest. A geological phenomenon vaguely similar to this doesn't quite exists. The high resolution photo is visible by clicking here (259Kb)

But then, what is the explanation? The simplest explanation is that some vegetable life forms (perhaps dating back to times when water was abundant on Mars) continue to grow on the planet, probably sinking their roots in a partially frozen water layer and able to bear strong changes in temperature.

In regard to their size, the biggest trees visible in the image have a diameter of about 1 kilometer. It obviously may seem too much, if it's compared with a terrestrial tree. But if we consider that:
1. atmosphere is more rarefied than the terrestrial one
2. gravity is only a third of the one of our planet
3. probably there are no parasites that can attach them
4. it's an alien species, surely unknown to us, with a different metabolism

then their huge dimensions become more acceptable. Anyway in the photo we can see also more  "normal-sized" trees.

Unfortunately no scientist accurately studied this document, because the "official science" says we cannot find trees there. Stop. But the "martian forest" continue to grow regardless.

Link to the MOC official photo:

This isn't the only evidence of vegetable life on the red planet, other images taken by MOC exist which show what could be brushes grown among dunes.

Let's compare it with this satellite photo showing a desertic area of Australia:

In this image of the martian surface we can observe what is  resembling a wood seen from above:

Here we see what really seems to be a lake (photo MOC m0901354, 2.75m/pixel):

Here too (MOC m0902042):

And in these photos too (click to view): e0801033, e0900020, e0900304 (this one at a 3.5 m/pixel resolution).

The following picture was acquired by the Opportunity probe on December, 19 2004 and it needs no comments (to the right there is a zoom of the yellow box). The original photo is visible by clicking HERE.

Here we have two other meaningful images which show the growth of vegetation on the red planet (MOC m1001442):

Click here for another photo showing vegetation on Mars (646 Kb)

It must be noted that unfortunately the Mars Global Surveyor has a camera (MOC) that shows only the red and the blue color, but not the green. It's probably the only camera ever constructed that has this feature, and I leave to your imagination what may be the reason for this technological choice....

Final note: probably not all people know that a certain amount of methane has been found in the Martian atmosphere (it was detected by Mars Express, by NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii, by International Gemini South observatory in Chile, by Mars Express Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) etc...). 
Methane is not a stable molecule in the atmosphere, it vanishes after a few hundred years. Then if it's still present, it must be regenerated in some way. Two are the possibilities: either volcanic activity or bacterial production.
It exists a third hypotesis too: methane may be generated by the impact of a comet on Mars, but nobody found any recent sign of collision on the surface, and anyway it couldn't have produced long-lasting effects.
It's difficult to support the first hypothesis, because the TES on Mars Global Surveyor and the Themis on Mars Odyssey (thermical sensors with a resolution of 100 meters) never detected any volcanic activity on Mars.
Then the second hyphotesis is the most likely, there seems to be some sort of biologic activity on Mars.
  UPDATE October, 6th 2006: currently there is the actual possibility to observe forests and lakes in color and with great detail, the proof is the photo taken from orbit by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that shows perfectly the Opportunity probe on the red planet surface, and even the tracks that its wheels left on the sand. At this point one question arises: what is NASA waiting for before taking pictures of the most interesting zones and finally solving some mysteries?


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