In 1976, we found evidence of extraterrestrial life. Coming not in such dramatic fashion as fleets of alien spacecraft landing in front of the UN, or an information-packed burst of radio transmission, this evidence came in the understated form of a biological waste product.
Experiment Yields Positive Results
|Dr Gilbert Levin|
View a slideshow demonstrating the Labeled Release Experiment
Although the Labeled Release Experiment relied on accepted and proven methods of determining the presence of biological organisms, official position at the time stated that the positive results were misleading, and were the result of either superoxides or an unknown chemical on the surface of the planet. At the time, not much evidence existed to refute that statement, but in the years since, other evidence has come to light supporting the claim that there is more going on at Mars (and NASA/JPL) than we may know.
Painting a Deceiving Picture
There is more than circumstantial evidence that the concept of a "red Mars" is more of a conditioned idea than one based in fact. For example, consider the two images below, both released by JPL as original images; which one is the correct image? The answer is - they both are. The one at left was taken sometime on day 30 of the Pathfinder mission, which was to have been the final day of the mission, before it was extended. The image at right was taken at the end of day 30, as noted in the caption in the original image. Note the identical shadows cast by the probe and nearby rocks; either both images were taken within moments of each other, or they are in fact the same image, one of them color-adjusted. Did the image at left "slip through the cracks"?
|Source: JPL/NASA||Source: JPL/NASA|
What could cause two otherwise identical images to vary so much in color? Dust particles present in the lower atmosphere would scatter sunlight, adjusting it to a reddish hue similar to Earth's sunsets. It is hard, however, to imagine an effect which would cause such a sudden rise in atmospheric dust while at the same time not affecting the position of nearby rocks, pebbles, and sand, as well as not affecting the performance of the camera itself. This also does not explain the appearance of the left image in the first place, which depicts a brighter, more Earth-like tone. An explanation can be found in a statement by Ron Levin, son of Dr Gilbert Levin and a physicist at MIT. Levin claims that the original images received from Viking depicted "a blue sky and rocks with greenish patches on them", and NASA officials artifically adjusted the color on subsequent images to wash out certain features. The full account can be read here, from which I quote:
6 Oct 1976, 07:48
Ron said that he was a 20-year old grad student and was at JPL when the first color images came in from the lander. He said those original images showed a blue sky and rocks with greenish patches on them, and that the Viking imaging team quickly adjusted the images so that the sky and the rocks all had the reddish color we're familiar with. Levin made it clear that there was no scientific justification for these "adjustments", and he speculated that the color was changed because the planetary scientists took a dim view of the greenish patches on the rocks, which suggested some primitive form of plant life might be growing right on the surface.
There is also evidence that the natural color of the Martian
sky is in fact blue rather then reddish. From a Space Telescope Science Institute
press release dated 1 July 1997, and viewable here:
Next-Generation Experiment Dr Levin has no doubt that his original results will be proven correct. As
he accurately states, "They thought Galileo was wrong the first time, too."
"If dust diffuses to the landing site, the
sky could turn out to be pink like that seen by Viking," says Philip James of
the University of Toledo. "Otherwise, Pathfinder will likely show blue sky with
Dr Levin has no doubt that his original results will be proven correct. As he accurately states, "They thought Galileo was wrong the first time, too."
Related Sites of Interest