Are there Lights on Mars?

The red planet has long been one of the core bodies of speculation in regards to the prospect of life on other planets.  And some researchers have said – perhaps with a note of alarm – that this speculation has a long and rich history reaching back hundreds of years.  But the rampant speculation never reached a more fevered pitch than at the turn of the century when Nikola Tesla, famed inventor of Alternating Current and others noted strange emanations coming from the planet’s surface.

Tesla, in 1901 came forward stating that he had intercepted radio signals from the red planet and had even heard what appeared to him to be an intelligent signal of possible alien origin.  The famed inventor went public with his findings, but was later discredited.  He would soon join the ranks of people who would follow who claimed alien contact and were ostracized for it.  But he would not be the only one as the century entered its second year.

Lord Kelvin, who would later deny his support of the theory of Martian life, suggesting he had only suggested that Martians would be able to see signs of life on Earth IF they did exist.  By the end of 1900, a man from Lowell Observatory in Arizona had reported seeing strange lights on Mars for a period of no less than seventy minutes.  As he looked into the lights he considered for the first time if he could be observing an artificially generated light instead of some natural reflective surface existing on Mars.  The unnatural light theory was later explored by NASA in the form of the Mars Rover, but no evidence of a reflective surface natural or otherwise could be discovered.  As the century came to a close, the evidence for life on Mars had piled up only slightly despite extensive spending by space programs worldwide to explore the red planet.

By the mid 1990’s, however, Mars Fever once again made a comeback with the discovery of ALH 840001 which seemed to contain artificial structures similar to microorganisms inside it.  The subject is a matter of genuine scientific controversy even today.

And so the subject of Martian life has been going through its tug of war for more than a century.  But as we look closely at the subject of extraterrestrial life, it seems there is far more emotion attached to it than actual evidence on both sides.  Of particular interest is the idea that Nikola Tesla, one of the world’s most eminent scientists and inventors could have been criticized so harshly by his peers when very little information could be ascertained refuting his claim.  It’s similar in scope to how Copernicus was criticized for his theory of heliocentrism, which would later receive widespread acceptance.

But even today evidence of life on the red planet is put under increasing scrutiny.  It will be difficult to determine if the Martian surface is host to any life forms past or present in the future, but all evidence yet to be acquired will be sure to cause substantial controversy in the future.