Science

Mars will become habitable with the presence of Methane gas

Mars will become habitable with the presence of Methane gas”

On Monday, scientists published their findings about the first independent confirmation about methane on Mars in the Nature Geoscience journal.

When Curiosity detected methane nearly six years ago, it was speculated that the gas originated north of the rover because the prevailing winds were southward, and that the release likely occurred inside the crater.

Marco Giuranna and colleagues at the National Institute of Astrophysics in Rome, Italy, presented spacecraft-based spectrometer observations of methane in the Martian atmosphere near Gale Crater, the landing site of the Curiosity rover.

On June 16, 2013, the Curiosity rover's sensors picked up a spike of methane gas levels in the Gale Crater, the 96-mile crater where it had landed in 2012, The Guardian explained.

How the methane escaped from frozen lakes beneath the surface of Mars. But this is the first time two separate pieces of equipment have detected methane (CH4) in the same region at the same time. But even if methanogenic forms of life have not developed on Mars, methane can be produced by abiotic processes that are likely on the Red Planet.

An worldwide 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.

"Methane is important because it could be an indicator of microbial life", he said.

"Although parts per billion in general means a relatively small amount, it is quite remarkable for Mars - our measurement corresponds to an average of about 46 tonnes of methane that was present in the area of 49 000 square kilometers observed from our orbit".

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.

Tracing the methane source wasn't easy though: Scientists split up a large area around the Gale crater into a grid with squares, and then, researchers at Brussels' Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy used computer models to replicate one million different emission incidents in each square, Space.com noted.

"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. The location, known as Aeolis Mensae, has a number of geological faults that may have fractured nearby permafrost and released any methane trapped inside.

But that has all changed thanks to a re-analysis of the original data that shows methane is definitely detectable on Mars. Meanwhile, geologists in the USA and Italy scrutinised the region around the crater for features that might release methane.



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