Egypt- Independent studies find likely source of methane on Mars

Olive Hawkins
April 4, 2019

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.

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

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Because methane gas dissipates relatively quickly - within around 12 years on Earth - and due to the difficulty of observing Mars' atmosphere, many scientists questioned previous studies that relied on a single data set. The first emission was detected by the rover in the Gale Crater in June 2013 followed soon after by another emission.

Professor Marco Giuranna from the Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology in Rome, the lead author of the paper which analysed the results, said: "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".

Scientists sent the ExoMars orbiter to the planet in 2016, in the hope that it can better understand the operation of methane on its surface and possible understand better where it is emerging from. NASA Curiosity rover detected the methane emission from the Gale Crater within 24 hours of the space probe. Since this time, Curiosity has discovered evidence of seasonal changes in methane.

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The Mars Express detection itself corresponds to 46 tonnes of methane out-gassing from an area covering 49,000 square kilometres.

Researchers from the USA, India and Italy have studied images taken by the Mars Curiosity Rover and found them on the organisms, like fungi and lichens. Nasa experts feel that the Gale crater could have been a very ancient lake once upon a time.

The apparent presence of methane on Mars has fuelled intense speculation that the gas could emanate from microbial Martians beneath the surface, though a more prosaic explanation points to a reaction between olivine rocks and water. This approach provides a template for future efforts aimed at locating sites of methane release from the subsurface on Mars.

"We identified tectonic faults that might extend below a region proposed to contain shallow ice".

"Remarkably, we saw that the atmospheric simulation and geological assessment, performed independently of each other, suggested the same region of provenance of the methane, which is situated about 500 km east of Gale", said Marco Giuranna from the varsity.

"Our results support the idea that methane release on Mars might be characterized by small, transient geological events rather than a constantly replenishing global presence", said Frank Daerden, researcher at the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Astronomy in Brussels.

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