Methane detected on Mars; origin not but identified – Astronomy Now
The Curiosity Mars rover shot this “selfie” on 12 Might. Picture: NASA This week, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover discovered a stunning consequence: the biggest quantity of methane ever measured through the mission – about 21 components per billion models by quantity (ppbv). One ppbv signifies that in the event you take a quantity of air
The Curiosity Mars rover shot this “selfie” on 12 Might. Picture: NASA
This week, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover discovered a stunning consequence: the biggest quantity of methane ever measured through the mission – about 21 components per billion models by quantity (ppbv). One ppbv signifies that in the event you take a quantity of air on Mars, one billionth of the quantity of air is methane.
The discovering got here from the rover’s Pattern Evaluation at Mars (SAM) tuneable laser spectrometer. It’s thrilling as a result of microbial life is a vital supply of methane on Earth, however methane will also be created by way of interactions between rocks and water.
Curiosity doesn’t have devices that may definitively say what the supply of the methane is, or even when it’s coming from an area supply inside Gale Crater or elsewhere on the planet.
“With our present measurements, we’ve no means of telling if the methane supply is biology or geology, and even historic or trendy,” mentioned SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Middle in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The Curiosity staff has detected methane many occasions over the course of the mission. Earlier papers have documented how background ranges of the fuel appear to rise and fall seasonally. They’ve additionally famous sudden spikes of methane, however the science staff is aware of little or no about how lengthy these transient plumes final or why they’re totally different from the seasonal patterns.
The SAM staff organised a distinct experiment for this weekend to collect extra info on what may be a transient plume. No matter they discover – even when it’s an absence of methane – will add context to the current measurement.
Curiosity’s scientists want time to analyse these clues and conduct many extra methane observations. In addition they want time to collaborate with different science groups, together with these with the European House Company’s Hint Gasoline Orbiter, which has been in its science orbit for slightly over a yr with out detecting any methane.
Combining observations from the floor and from orbit may assist scientists find sources of the fuel on the planet and perceive how lengthy it lasts within the Martian environment. Which may clarify why the Hint Gasoline Orbiter’s and Curiosity’s methane observations have been so totally different.