The scientisis from Nasa have discovered high amount of methane on Mar’s surface. The high amount could indicate life on the Red planet. The discovery was made by Nasa’s Curiousity Rover.
Although the gas can be generated by geological processes much of it is released by micro-organisms known as methanogens, some of which live in the guts of certain mammals. The discovery of the gas is significant because on Earth methane is usually produced by living things.
Any methane detected now must have been released recently as sunlight and chemical reactions would break up the molecules within a few centuries.
Curiosity scientists developed a technique that enabled the rover to detect even tinier amounts of methane with its existing tools. The gas seems to rise and fall with the red planet’s seasons.
“Given this surprising result, we’ve reorganised the weekend to run a follow-up experiment,” Ashwin Vasavada, the project scientist for the mission, wrote to the science team in an email that was obtained by The New York Times.
The mission’s controllers on Earth sent new instructions to the rover on Friday to follow up on the readings, bumping previously planned science work. The results of these observations were expected back on the ground on Monday.
Now, they are entertaining the notion that if life ever did arise on Mars, its microbial descendants could have migrated underground and persisted. On Earth, microbes known as methanogens thrive in places lacking oxygen, such as rocks deep underground and the digestive tracts of animals, and they release methane as a waste product. However, geothermal reactions devoid of biology can also generate methane. It is also possible that the methane is ancient, trapped inside Mars for millions of years but escaping intermittently through cracks.
A Nasa spokesperson added: “To maintain scientific integrity, the project science team will continue to analyse the data before confirming results.”
The measurement this past week found 21 parts per billion of methane, or three times the 2013 spike.
Marco Giuranna, a scientist at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy, who leads the Mars Express orbiter’s methane measurements, said scientists on the Curiosity, Mars Express and Trace Gas Orbiter missions had been discussing the latest findings. He confirmed he had been told of the reading of 21 parts per billion but added that the finding was preliminary.