NASA's Curiosity Mars rover detects 'unusually high' levels of methane

  
Via:  perrie-halpern  •  4 weeks ago  •  13 comments

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover detects 'unusually high' levels of methane
Is it evidence of life on the Red Planet?

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


By David Freeman


In a finding that has renewed talk about the possibility of life on Mars, NASA said Sunday that its Curiosity rover had detected "unusually high" levels of methane on the Red Planet.

Methane is an odorless, colorless gas that can be produced by simple geological processes as well as by microbes and other living organisms, so the new methane spike doesn't definitively prove that life exists or once existed on Mars.

"While increased methane levels measured by @MarsCuriosity are exciting, as possible indicators for life, it’s important to remember this is an early science result," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the science mission directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington, said in a tweet on Saturday.

190624-possible-methane-sources-ac-409p_This image illustrates possible ways methane might be added to Mars' atmosphere (sources) and removed from the atmosphere (sinks). NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAM-GSFC/Univ. of Michigan

NASA said Curiosity scientists needed more time to analyze the new findings and to conduct additional methane observations. A spokesperson for the agency declined a request for more information.

Curiosity has detected methane many times since its arrival on Mars in 2012, but this is the most the rover has ever detected: 21 parts per billion by volume. That's three times higher than the previous record, Nature reported, though far below atmospheric methane levels on Earth.

Major sources of methane on Earth include the production and distribution of fossil fuels; cattle and other domestic livestock, which produce methane during the digestive process; and the decomposition of waste in landfills and wastewater treatment plants.

The rover's laser spectrometer device detected the methane while the car-size rover was parked at the Teal Ridge site within Gale Crater, a 96-mile-wide dry lake bed that was created millions of years ago by an asteroid impact. Curiosity was sent to the crater in part because its watery past makes it a likely spot to find evidence of past life on Mars.

Previously, Curiosity detected carbon-containing molecules in ancient sediments on Mars as well as seasonal shifts in the levels of atmospheric methane. In a commentary on those discoveries published last June in the journal Nature, Inge Loes ten kate, an astrobiologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, called the discoveries "breakthroughs in astrobiology."

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Ed-NavDoc
2  Ed-NavDoc    4 weeks ago

Proof positive that there were once politicians on Mars! My apologies, I could not help myself. Good article though.

 
 
 
WallyW
2.1  WallyW  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @2    4 weeks ago

We know that microbial life appeared quite early in Earth's history. Perhaps it might have started to form on Mars since there was water on its surface early on.

http://www.fossilmuseum.net/Tree_of_Life/Stromatolites.htm

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
2.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @2    4 weeks ago

I thought it was funny....

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
3  Trout Giggles    4 weeks ago

Methane is a simple carbon CH4 if I remember my organic chem correctly.

There's an abundance of methane on Earth but that doesn't mean there's intelligent life here......

 
 
 
Krishna
4  Krishna    4 weeks ago

The solution?

Send the martians rocketship loads of "Beyond Meat"!

Its time for them to go vegan!

 
 
 
†hε pε⊕pレε'š ƒïšh
5  †hε pε⊕pレε'š ƒïšh    4 weeks ago

Clearly Mars is experiencing man made climate change, oh wait.......

 
 
 
Nerm_L
6  Nerm_L    4 weeks ago

The news is more likely evidence of another NASA budget request.  NASA has a long history of hyping science for more public money.  Whatever happened to OCO2?

 
 
 
Gordy327
6.1  Gordy327  replied to  Nerm_L @6    3 weeks ago

NASA should have a higher budget. If it had the military budget, we might have had moon bases by now.

 
 
 
Nerm_L
6.1.1  Nerm_L  replied to  Gordy327 @6.1    3 weeks ago
NASA should have a higher budget. If it had the military budget, we might have had moon bases by now.

A $21.5 billion annual budget ain't exactly chickenfeed.  That's almost double the Air Force's budget for aircraft procurement.  And NASA receives additional funding from the military, too. 

Whatever happened to the NASA Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2)?  Did the hype live up to the $1.5 billion price tag?  Will the third one finally deliver something useful?

 
 
 
Gordy327
6.1.2  Gordy327  replied to  Nerm_L @6.1.1    3 weeks ago

$21.5B is drops in a bucket compared to a $650B military budget. 

 
 
 
Nerm_L
6.1.3  Nerm_L  replied to  Gordy327 @6.1.2    3 weeks ago
$21.5B is drops in a bucket compared to a $650B military budget. 

About $180 billion of that military budget is for payroll and health care.  The military spends about as much on space activities as does NASA.  And the military does provide some funding to NASA for payload delivery.  NASA is a military contractor, too.  

What happened to the NASA Earth Observing System?  OCO-2 was only one of 17 space missions that were supposed to provide definitive answers about the changing climate.  NASA has also conducted atmospheric programs that were promised to provide insights about the stratosphere and the changing climate.    

The NASA Space Launch System will cost at least $7 billion to get the first rocket off the pad.  Just so a handful of military trained astronauts can whiff Mars farts.

NASA is sucking money away from research that could have a real impact.  

 
 
 
Ender
7  Ender    3 weeks ago

It is all of the cow and pig farts from earth...traveling on solar winds.

 
 
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