What happened to the methane of Mars? A strange secret is on Mars. Years ago scientists discovered traces of methane in the atmosphere of the planet. Now, the team collecting data from a satellite currently orbiting Mars has reported that the orbiter has found no evidence of methane in the atmosphere. The presence of methane is important because it is one of the basic elements of life, suggesting that the planet may once have been habitable.
Recently, a mission called ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) analyzed the atmosphere of Mars to see what gases, clouds and dust it contains, using an instrument called NOMAD (Nadir and Occultation for Mar's Discovery ) Spectrometer suite. In the recently released results, the NOMAD team confirmed that it had found no methane up to a highly sensitive level of detection of 50 parts per trillion and that it had made observations covering almost the entire atmosphere to the surface of the planet.
To add to the confusion, NASA's Curiosity Rover found methane on Mars earlier this year, though the results were not consistent over time: the rover found "seasonally fluctuating amounts" of the gas in the atmosphere , The leader of the methane-sensing instrument of Curiosity, dr. Chris Webster, told that he was certain the results would eventually be reconciled, as his team needed six months before discovering the methane peak as part of the planet's methane cycle. "I am confident that consistency will be achieved over time between the two datasets," he said.
It is believed that the cycle of methane on Mars originates from "microseeps" in the subsurface of the planet, where small amounts of gases seep through the rock. It is believed that due to living or geological sources, the methane comes from within the planet and does not come from outside the planet. This hypothesis is supported by data from the Trace Gas Orbiter, which shows that no methane is falling through the atmosphere.
The TGO will collect data by 2022, so further evidence for the methane cycles of Mars may be found in the coming years. 1