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NASA's Curiosity Rover detects an increase in methane on Mars



A composite self portrait of the Curiosity Mars Rover, 2018.
Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech ((AP)

NASAs Like The New York Times On Saturday, the curio rover discovered "an amazing amount of methane in the Martian air" on Wednesday, which could possibly be a sign of life on the Red Planet.

Detecting Methane Would Be an Important Discovery As the Times noted, it decays within a few centuries from sunlight and chemical reactions – which means that historically speaking, it would have had to develop lately – a high methane content could possibly be generated underground by microbes called methanogens Survive without oxygen and produce the gas as a metabolic byproduct. Project scientist Ashwin R. Vasavada told the scholar am from Curiosity in an email: "Given this startling result, we have reorganized the weekend to conduct a follow-up experiment," the Times wrote.

The readings on Wednesday are more than three times higher than those of a sudden increase in 2013, which took several months. After Curiosity first found nothing in 2012, it discovered about seven parts per billion methane during the year. The latest measurements are 21 parts per billion.

However, it is also possible that the Curiosity Rover has simply discovered methane leakage from the surface, the Times wrote, and the readings are only tentative. In 2004, when methane was similarly detected on the Martian surface, scientists said that methane could also be produced by geothermal reactions with water and heat, and the exact mechanism by which it could occur on Mars is still open. (Since then, research has shown that Mars may not be as geologically inert as previously thought.)

The Times wrote:

Curiosity researchers developed a technique that allowed the Rover with its existing tools to detect even lower levels of methane. The gas seems to rise and fall with the seasons of the red planet. A new analysis of the old Mars Express readings confirmed Curiosity's 2013 results. One day after Curiosity reported a methane peak, the orbiter running above Curiosity's position also peaked.

But the Trace Gas Orbiter, a recent European spacecraft launched in 2016 with more sensitive instruments, did not detect any methane at all in its first series of scientific observations last year.

National Institute of Astrophysics in Italy Scientist Marco Giuranna, who performs methane measurements through the Mars Express Orbiter, said that Mars Express, Curiosity and Trace Gas Orbiter scientists are the results, but that there are still "many data to process".

The Curiosity Rover has been distracted from its planned scientific work to track methane levels. More data is expected on Monday, according to the Times. [19659006] [New York Times]


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