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Curiosity discovers the highest levels of methane on Mars



  Curiosity at the highest level Methane Methane20190623 16 1
This image was taken by the left Navcam on June 18, 2019, the 2,440th Mars Day or Sol of the mission, recorded on the NASA rover Curiosity Mars. It shows a part of "Teal Ridge" that the rover investigated in a region called the "clay-containing unit". NASA / JPL-Caltech

The strange mystery of methane on Mars continues. Previously, NASA's Curiosity Rover found something strange: it detected fluctuating methane levels in the Martian atmosphere, although a revolving satellite, the European Space Agency (ESA) trace gas orbiter, found no evidence of methane using its highly sensitive detection values. As a result, the ESA's Mars Express mission, using a new detection technique, found that methane was only available in certain locations for a very short period of time.

Curiosity now has the highest methane content at 21

ppm

Methane values ​​are important because the gas can be produced by microbes. It is believed that under the surface of Mars, which produces the gas, life could exist, which then escapes in swaths to the surface. However, methane can also be generated by geological influences of rocks and water and escape to the surface in the same way. Unfortunately, Curiosity can not tell if the methane it detects comes from biological or geological processes.

In a follow-up experiment, Curiosity scientists found that methane levels later decreased dramatically to below 1 part per billion units by volume. This level is similar to the background level that Curiosity normally sees, suggesting that the previously detected methane peak was transient. This supports the idea of ​​transient methane swells that appear occasionally and seemingly random, in addition to the already observed seasonal variations in methane levels.

said in a statement. "More than ever we are motivated to continue measuring and putting our brains together to find out how methane behaves in the Martian atmosphere."

The next step is for Curiosity researchers to work with the Trace Gas Orbiter team to combine the data from the surface and orbit of Mars. This could help to locate the source of the methane swell and determine how long the gas stays in the atmosphere.







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