An Australian scientist claimed on Monday to have found the first evidence of fluid flows on Mars, but he said the discovery long sought by those hoping to find life on the red planet probably proves the contrary.

University of Melbourne geologist Nick Hoffman said he found recent gully and channel development near polar regions of Mars while examining images taken by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.

“I spent a long time looking round the area trying to figure out what was going on and eventually I realised we were seeing flows in action here on Mars,” Hoffman said on public radio.

But, contrary to popular scientific opinion, Hoffmann said the flow was most likely frozen carbon dioxide and not liquid water that could sustain life.

“These flows cannot possibly be water,” Hoffman said, explaining that the area he monitored recorded temperatures as low as minus 130 degrees centigrade – cold in which water could not flow.

The findings, published in the latest edition of the journal Astrobiology, represent a serious blow to the ongoing search for life on Mars, he said.

“Without water we cannot have life,” he said.

“Despite recent reports of more and more ice on the red planet, NASA has yet to find liquid water,” he said, referring to the US space agency.

“People at NASA don’t want to hear that there’s no water on Mars,” he said.

“They want it to be ‘Mars is a wet planet, we’ll just go there and dig up some fossils and bring them back’,” he said.

“If these findings are generally accepted, it will impact on NASA’s mission. They’ll no longer focus on the gullies, they’ll have to find somewhere else.”

The next bid to find life on Mars will come in May when the European Space Agency sends a robot lander, Beagle 2, towards the planet.

But the chances of success seem slim.

The fourth planet from the Sun is cold and dim, with temperatures ranging from 20 C (68 F) to minus 140 C (minus 220 C) and an atmosphere composed 95 percent of carbon dioxide. i-Africa