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1st methane, now oxygen: another possible "biosignature" gas acts strange on Mars

Another possible biosignature gas is held strangely in Mars air.

We already knew that thanks to NASA's Mars Rover, methane levels in the 96 miles (154 kilometers) wide of Galle Crater increased significantly during the summer months and that gas concentrations increased drastically several times in the last few years, for unknown reasons. And now a new study reports that a six-wheeled robot has been watching something similar to oxygen, another potential sign of life.

"We are beginning to see this excruciating dependence on methane and oxygen for much of the year of Mars," study co-author Sushil Atreya, professor of climate and space science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, said in a statement . "I think there's something about it. I just don't have the answers yet. Nobody does."

Related: Incredible NASA Curiosity Rover Photos (Latest Images)

Graph showing the oxygen levels in the Mars Galle crater as measured by NASA's Rovers rover.

(Image Credit: Melissa Trainer / Dan Gallagher / NASA Goddard)

The recently reported results are courtesy of the instrumental analysis of the Curiosity of Mars (SAM), a small chemistry lab that the rover carries on its body. . The mission team has been using SAM to characterize the Red Planet's atmosphere and analyze dirt and rock samples since Curiosity landed in Galle Crater in August 2012.

New Survey published online on Tuesday (November 12) in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, provides a detailed look at SAM measurements from 2012 to 2017. Data show that the air inside Galle Crater is 95% carbon dioxide (CO2) by volume, 2.6% molecular nitrogen (N2) ), 1.9% argon (Ar), 0.16% molecular oxygen (O2) and 0.06% carbon monoxide (CO).

There are no surprises in these numbers. But the team found that O2 levels did not follow the same seasonal patterns as those other gases, rising significantly higher than predicted in spring and summer and falling below the expected winter levels of Galle Crater.

And that was definitely a surprise.

"The first time we saw this, it was just mind-blowing," Atreia said.

Researchers have verified and verified the accuracy of SAM by determining that the tool works well. And they examined many possible explanations, but did not find one that was in control. For example, the summer enhancement of O2 could theoretically result from the separation of CO2 or water molecules into the atmosphere of Mars . But it would take five times more water in the air than was observed to make it happen, the study team said, and CO2 does not break down at the required speed.

So the variation of O2, like the fluctuations of methane, remains mysterious for the time being.

"We are struggling to explain this," said study leader Melissa Trainer, a planetary scientist at the Godard Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in the same statement. "The fact that oxygen behavior does not repeat itself perfectly every season makes us think that this is not a problem with the dynamics of the atmosphere. There must be some chemical source and sink that we cannot yet account for." [19659008] Oxygen behavior in Galle Crater closely follows that of methane found by the NASA Curiosity Rover Mars mission. "class =" expandable lazy-image lazy-image-loading lazyload optional-image "onerror =" if (this.src && this.src.indexOf ('missing-image.svg')! == -1) {return true ;}; this.parentNode.replaceChild (window.missingImage (), this) "sizes =" auto "data-normal =" https://vanilla.futurecdn.net/space/media/img/missing-image.svg " data-src = "https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/yV8tH4ciTSaiPjyjkAxRwL-320-80.jpg" data-srcset = "https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/yV8tH4ciTSaiPjyjkAxRwL-3-3" 80.jpg 320w, https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/yV8tH4ciTSaiPjyjkAxRwL-650-80.jpg 650w "data-sizes =" auto "data-original-mos =" https: //cdn.mos. cms.futurecdn.net/yV8tH4ciTSaiPjyjkAxRwL.jpg "data-pin-media =" https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/yV8tH4ciTSaiPjyjkAxRwL.jpg "/>

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