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NASA's methane discovery may indicate life on Mars



NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has discovered that the Red Planet produces significantly more methane than previously known. The finding has significant implications for the study of Mars, in particular the possibility that the planet currently houses life.

Vasavada, the project scientist of the mission, wrote to the science team in an email from The New York Times which reported the findings on June 22, "so you can determine if the source of methane is biology or geology or even antiquity or modernity, "said Paul Mahaffy, Principal Investigator at Mars (SAM), June 23 in a press release from NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

To understand how much methane was found, a measurement called parts per billion volume units or ppbv is required. A ppbv means that if someone captured the air volume on Mars, one billionth of the air volume would be methane. Curiosity found 21

ppbv, far more than expected.

NASA is currently preaching caution. "The Curiosity team has repeatedly proven methane throughout the mission," the agency's press release said. "Previous publications have documented how the background of the gas appears to rise and fall seasonally."

None of them, so the implication, has shown a sign of life. NASA told the Times they consider the findings of Curiosity as an "early scientific finding".

However, it is difficult not to get excited about the idea of ​​methane, which is a potential biosignature of life. Naturally produced methane is often associated on earth with lakes, swamps, natural gas reservoirs and the digestive tract of cows – all breeding grounds for life, even the smallest microbial beings. Farm animals are some of the largest producers of methane which, because of their nature as a greenhouse gas, could be a problem for the earth. Studies have theorized how gas could have played a role in the origin of life on this planet.

As the Times states, methane would be exceptional in the Martian air because "sunlight and chemical reactions would break down within a few hundred years, so any methane that has now been detected must have been recently released."

The tool with which the methane was found is called SAM. According to NASA, the instrument "absorbs more than half of the scientific payload on board the Mars Science Laboratory Rover" and has a number of instruments, including a mass spectrometer, a gas chromatograph and a tunable laser spectrometer. [Mars nasa greenbelt] "=" lazyimage lazyload "src =" https://hips.hearstapps.com/hmg-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/images/msl20101006-img -3098-br-1561407016.jpg? Resize = 320: "" />

SAM, the suite of instruments that recently detected methane on Mars, where SAM was seen in earlier days at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

] NASA-GSFC

  nasa sam tools methane mars

SAMs different instruments.The entire device has the size of a microwave oven.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

The laser spectrometer is built to analyze light rays and after a wealth of different isotopes of carbon, To look for hydrogen and oxygen in atmospheric gases like water vapor, carbon dioxide and, yes, methane.The measurements of the spectrometer are at 10 parts per thousand. [19659002] The SAM team will investigate in future studies what a transient cloud might be The team will not find methane, it will be b The European Space Agency's Trace Gas Orbiter, which has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2016, may add a context results were released in April of this year and showed "a surprising shortage of methane".

Whatever happens to methane on Mars, it does not happen consistently. More methane leads to more questions at this point. If the Mars 2020 Rover lands on the surface next year, he'll have his hands full.

Source: New York Times


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