At the end of June, NASA announced that the sensors on its Curiosity Rover are delivering alarmingly high levels of methane, seemingly coming from nowhere. Determining the source of this methane and whether it is a geological or a biological process is now an important area of research for scientists. A new study from Newcastle University does not provide a definitive answer, but brings us a startling step closer.
In an article published in Scientific Reports researchers effectively exclude a potential source
Due to observations of wind erosion on Mars, it is unlikely that methane will be degraded by degradation Rocks and the release of gas into the air on Mars have been discovered for some time, and nobody is really sure what is responsible. Methane can be produced by microbial life, but there are also geological processes ̵
Put simply, methane on Mars is not a smoking weapon that life on the planet exists (or ever existed), so scientists are working to narrow down the possibilities. In this new study, researchers have determined erosion rates on Mars and attempted to reconcile them with the seasonal changes in methane levels in the background.
If they considered anything, they could not produce a solid connection between wind erosion and methane spikes, which means that it probably originated from another source. Excluding wind erosion means that there is a less potential source of geological methane, but there is no evidence that the methane comes from biological sources.
"It's still an open question. Our article is just a small part of a much bigger story, "said Dr. Emmal Safi, principal author of the work, in a statement. "Ultimately, we try to find out if there is a possibility that life exists on planets other than our own, either now or perhaps in the past, which now remains as fossils or chemical signatures."