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Mars is farting methane.

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  • Mars is farting methane.

    Source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nasa-rover-finds-mysterious-methane-emissions-on-mars/?WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20141216


    NASA Rover Finds Mysterious Methane Emissions on Mars

    New results suggest evidence for extraterrestrial life could be near at hand
    December 16, 2014 |By Lee Billings

    NASA's Curiosity rover snaps a self-portrait on Mars.

    NASA's Curiosity rover, seen here in a self-portrait from spring 2014, has found conclusive evidence of methane in the atmosphere of Mars. The gas is a potential sign of alien life, though it could also be produced through abiotic mechanisms.
    Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

    Is there life on Mars? The answer may be blowing in the wind.

    NASA’s Curiosity rover has detected fluctuating traces of methane – a possible sign of life – in the thin, cold air of the Martian atmosphere, researchers announced today at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

    Across Mars and within Gale Crater, where Curiosity is slowly climbing a spire of sedimentary rock called Mount Sharp, the methane exists at a background concentration of slightly less than one part per billion by volume in the atmosphere (ppb). However, for reasons unknown, four times across a period of two months the rover measured much higher methane abundances, at about ten times the background level. Further in-situ studies of the methane emissions could help pin down whether Mars has life, now or in its deep past, though it is unclear when or if those studies will ever take place. The findings are published in the journal Science.

    “Most of the methane on Earth is produced by biology, and the hope has been that ‘methane on Mars’ could be reduced to ‘life on Mars,’” says lead author Chris Webster, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “But we cannot yet distinguish whether the high methane levels we’re seeing are being produced geochemically or biologically.” Webster and his team believe the unexpected bursts of methane are produced relatively nearby, somewhere north of the rover, before being carried to Curiosity on prevailing winds.

    The findings are a dramatic reversal from Curiosity’s earlier results released one year ago, in which it used data gathered over a third of a Martian year to all but rule out significant quantities of methane in the Martian air. That null result, it is now clear, was due to the actual background level of Martian methane lying just below the threshold of detectability for the standard operations of Curiosity’s instruments.

    To sniff out the methane, the Curiosity team had to look longer and harder. For these new results, they collected data over the course of a full Martian year, and gathered “enriched” samples of Martian air that were stripped of carbon dioxide to amplify fainter traces of methane. The one-part-per-billion methane background they eventually found, Webster says, translates to about 200 metric tons of the gas flowing through the Martian atmosphere each year. The Earth, by comparison, annually has about half a billion metric tons of methane cycling through its air.

    Most of Earth’s methane comes from anaerobic bacteria living in low-oxygen environments, such as stagnant water and the guts of animals, though abiotic processes such as hot water flowing through mineral-rich rock can also produce the gas. Mars’s minuscule methane background is broadly consistent with what should be produced by ultraviolet light striking the carbon-rich debris of meteorites, comets, and interplanetary dust that periodically fall to the Red Planet. But this mechanism cannot easily explain the methane spikes that Curiosity observed, as it calls for large, very recent meteoritic impacts or airbursts in the vicinity of Gale Crater that would leave clear signs which vigilant orbiting spacecraft should have spotted by now. Alternatively, the Curiosity team suggests the methane spikes may come from unseen, buried deposits of clathrates, lattices of ice that can trap gases such as methane in their crystalline structure.

    Another possibility is that the methane spikes aren’t small, transient events produced near Curiosity, but that they are instead whiffs of larger methane releases occurring much farther away on the planet. For more than a decade, various teams using noise-riddled observations from Earthbound telescopes or interplanetary orbiters have claimed to see signs of massive methane releases in the Martian atmosphere, at varying concentrations of between ten to nearly sixty ppb. In 2009, the leader of one of those teams, Michael Mumma, a senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., announced the detection of giant, globe-girdling plumes of methane periodically venting from localized regions on the Martian surface.

    Other researchers, notably Kevin Zahnle of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Calif., cast doubt on the reality of the plumes. Zahnle says that the effects of Earth’s atmosphere could have contaminated Mumma’s telescopic data, and that the plumes’ purported transience required the unlikely existence of some potent planet-wide chemical catalyst to scrub the methane from the air. Curiosity’s early sniffs of seemingly methane-free Martian air were widely seen as a more definitive repudiation, since even with some unknown methane-scrubbing catalyst such huge plumes would still have left clearly detectable enhanced concentrations of the gas distributed throughout the planet’s atmosphere.

    Though the huge plumes he claimed in 2009 have now fallen out of favor, Mumma still suspects something like them, venting in large amounts far away from the rover, could be the source for Curiosity’s methane spikes. Arguments for a weaker, more local release, he notes, rely on assumptions about wind patterns in and around Gale Crater that are not yet fully backed by available data.

    © Copyright Original Source

    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

  • #2
    In summary the methane and other organics detected are necessary if life was ever on Mars, but the existence of these chemicals do not conclusively determine that life existed on Mars.
    Last edited by shunyadragon; 12-18-2014, 08:01 AM.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

    Comment


    • #3
      Farting again.

      Oy vey!

      K54

      Comment

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