Astronomers detected methane on mars

Katie Ramirez
April 4, 2019

Europe's Mars Express probe measured 15.5 parts per billion in the atmosphere above the Gale Crater on June 16, 2013. Researchers failed to confirm these results in the years that followed, but that's now changed thanks to a re-analysis of data collected from orbit.

Other instruments have detected methane on Mars.

"In general we did not detect any methane, aside from one definite detection of about 15 parts per billion by volume of methane in the atmosphere, which turned out to be a day after Curiosity reported a spike of about six parts per billion", says Giuranna.

"This work presents the first independent confirmation of methane detection on Mars and the first synergistic approach to the search for potential sites of methane release, integrating orbital and ground-based detections with Martian geology and atmospheric simulations (using gas emission scenarios based on terrestrial seepage data)".

That methane might exist on Mars is an issue of considerable debate.

Flybe flights cancelled at Belfast, Birmingham and beyond, disrupting thousands of passengers
Flybe CEO, Christine Ourmières-Widener said: "Our fleet reduction has always been core to improving our profitability". Flights at Norwich operated by Flybe's franchise partner, Eastern Airways, will not be impacted.

But there are geological processes that can produce methane, and don't require biology.

In addition to revealing the second methane reading, the newly published study details the likely source of that gas: a frozen methane sheet located beneath a rock formation relatively close to the Gale Crater. According to scientists, the waft of gas detected by Curiosity might have been released from a fractured Martian permafrost. The trouble with methane, however, is that it doesn't last long in the atmosphere.

Marco Giuranna, a researcher in the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica and the first author of the study, told Daily News Egypt that methane is important because it could be an indicator of microbial life.

An global team of scientists has for the first time identified a potential source of methane gas on Mars, nearly six years after NASA's Curiosity rover first detected hints of the gas on the Red Planet, and which may aid in future space missions.

At the time of the Curiosity observation, scientists figured the methane originated north of the rover and was carried to the Gale Crater by southerly winds. Both processes release the gas on Earth. Alternatively, incoming meteorites might have broken the ice open. The most likely origin block we've identified on the surface contains numerous geological faults that could account for the release. "Since permafrost is an excellent seal for methane, it is possible that the ice here could trap subsurface methane and release it episodically along the faults that break through this ice", says co-author Giuseppe Etiope from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome. By cross-referencing readings from Mars Express and Curiosity, they determined that the methane originated about 300 miles east of the Gale Crater, in a region known as Aeolis Mensae.

Other reports by

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER