Of all the discoveries made on Mars, the discovery of methane blower in the air is probably the most compelling. It is a mysterious find that can have historical consequences. You see, on earth, methane is a well-known by-product of metabolizing life forms. On Mars it can mean – * drummer please * – foreigners!
Or it can't mean anything at all.
The ongoing Mars methane saga hit the headlines again as NASA announced a measurement made by NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity, which has the ability to accurately measure the components of Martian's air. One-ton wheel rover is currently trundling up the slopes of Mount Sharp, a 3 km high mountain in the middle of Gale Crater, where eons Mars geological history is exposed to the surface of the sophisticated robot to study.
However, this latest discovery is not in the rocks and dust it is in the atmosphere. Curiosity was able to cheat a record breaking "spike" of methane. Using its sampling analysis at Mars (SAM) adjustable laser spectrometer, curiosity recorded a brief outbreak of methane at a concentration of 21
"The methane mystery continues," said Ashwin Vasavada, curiosity project researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "We are more motivated than ever to continue measuring and putting our brains together to find out how methane behaves in the martial atmosphere."
This recent detection is even more worrying as missionaries only performed a repetition analysis days after the recorded discovery, the methane concentrations had a pigeon back to just one ppbv, a background level for the gas that curves routine routinely.
So what's going on with Mars Methane?
On Earth, which has a large and complex ecosystem of trillions of life forms, the concentrations of methanes have been well researched, and due to human activity, methane levels are increasing – recently peaking at global methane levels of 1,866 ppbv, the highest it has been in 800,000 years. (This is worried about the future of our planet, as methane is a potent greenhouse gas.) Although 21 ppbv Mars measurement may sound anemic in comparison, an accumulation of those things, no matter how short-lived, may be an indicator
Before scientists can Declare that Mars methane is "evidence of little martins", they need to find out whether it is meta-matching microbes that hide underground or something less exciting. Although curiosity can detect very low concentrations of methane, unfortunately it cannot decipher what is produced. (And no, flatulent Mars queues do not exist and therefore cannot be considered a contributing factor.) "With our current measurements, we have no way of telling whether the methane source is biology or geology or even old or modern," Paul said. Mahaffy in a statement. Mahaffy is the SAM lead researcher at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Microbes or geology?
Methanogens are a group of well-researched single cell microorganisms on the soil that can thrive in oxygen-depleted environments (in fact, oxygen can be toxic to many of these microbes). They live in wet places (like swamps) and populate the digestive tracts of animals (yes, including cows and humans) that produce methane as they metabolize carbon dioxide and molecular hydrogen into energy. However, there are also non-biological, geochemical production mechanisms. If, for example, Should react with the minerals in the rock, serpentinization can occur, from which methane is a by-product.
The majority of Earth's methane production originates from organic processes, but what about Mars? Well, simply said, we just don't know. It may be that the underground water reacts slowly with the rock under curiosity that produces methane that leaks to the surface. At the back, there may be large colonies of methanogenic-like Mars microbes that run biological methane production that leaks to the surface of the burst – something that could explain the sharp point in the methane concentration when curiosity was measured.
One thing is for sure: Methane is a very unstable molecule when exposed to ultraviolet light. Without an active production mechanism, methane would be non-existent in the martial atmosphere because the sun would have eradicated it, so scientists are convinced that something actively produces the gas, whether through geological or biological processes. 19659011] Lots of questions about Mars methane, get answers
Although every Mars methane story allows for exciting "life on Mars" headlines, it's relatively old news. The gas was first discovered by the European Space Agency Mars Express orbiter in 2004. This first detection was confirmed in 2011, as terrestrial infrared observations have recorded small amounts of gas. Things became really interesting a few years after curiosity touched on the red planet. The rover had only discovered low amounts of methane since landing in 2012, but in 2014 it measured a significant increase in methane concentrations. By 2018, NASA had reported that the background amounts of methane would grow and decrease seasonally. Scientists are currently uncertain of what can cause these sporadic tips in methane emissions, although terrestrial methane contamination in the instruments of curiosity is not yet ruled out.
The result is that more work is needed before we can certainly understand where Mars & # 39; methane comes from – let alone whether gassy bacteria generate it. With the help of the European Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which arrived at Mars in late 2016, scientists hope to combine orbital measurements with ground detections to create a better picture of methane emissions. Although TGO at the time of writing has not yet discovered any methane – a nondetection that only raises more questions than answers around Mars & # 39; wonderfully mystifying methane history.