Thursday, 2 December 2010

Has Nasa found life beyond Earth?

The US space agency has created a buzz with its announcement of a press conference tomorrow morning (New Zealand time) to discuss a scientific finding that relates to the hunt for life beyond the planet Earth.

"NASA will hold a news conference at 2pm EST (8am NZT) to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life," it said on its website.

But Nasa has declined to elaborate further on the topic, other than to say astrobiology is the ''study of life in the universe, including its origin and evolution, where it is located and how it might survive in the future''.

Some suggest it could be revelations of a discovery on Mars, which has been under intense study by the Rover since 2004, while others speculate it will regard one of Saturn's moons, either Rhea or Titan.

Blogger Jason Kottke tipped NASA would announce the discovery of arsenic on Titan, or possibly chemical evidence of bacteria utilising it for photosynthesis.

That speculation was quickly picked up and repeated by a number of other bloggers and internet sites.
However Kottke theory has been rebuffed by Alexis Madrigal, senior science writer for The Atlantic, who tweeted that he had read the Science article relating to the Nasa announcement.

''I'm sad to quell some of the @kottke-induced excitement about possible extraterrestrial life. I've seen the Science paper. It's not that,'' he tweeted.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes the journal in which the research will appear, told ABC News in the US that it had received numerous inquiries about the "mostly erroneous online and/or tabloid speculation about the forthcoming research''.

"These reports clearly are not based on the peer-reviewed research being published under the auspices of the journal Science," it said.