Last week, "Curiosity" is the most powerful methane on Mars. The Laser Spectrometer tool records a methane jump of 21 parts per billion volumes (ppbv) in King Gaile, a region that has been studying since its landing in 2012.
Overall, the presence of methane on Mars has a global average of 10 ppbv, so NASA conducts follow-up observations to see if it can detect where the unusually high concentration comes from.
knowledge of methane sources: it can be produced by living creatures . Hence, tracking the source of methane on Mars can be a way of knowing if there are microbes living in the extreme conditions of the Red Planet.
However, it is too early to be excited because microbes are certainly not the only ones
"With our current measurements, there is no way to say whether the source of methane is biology or geology, or even ancient or modern," said the scientist Mars Paul Mahafi from NASA's Goddard Space Center.
Curiosity and other tools have made several methane discoveries over the years, but the levels seem to rise and fall, and methane seems to appear and disappear again as a mischievous ghost. has discovered the same methane boom in 201
And there are reasons to be cautious to move on to some important conclusions. Here on Earth we have quite a lot of methane – about 1800 ppbv in the atmosphere from 2011, of which 90 to 95% are generated by living or deceased beings.
But when we look elsewhere in the solar system, there are also many geological processes that can generate methane abiotically without the presence of life. On gas and ice giants such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, much methane has emerged through chemical reactions.
Pluto has methane ice. The moon of Saturn Titan has lakes of liquid methane. The union is not very common in the solar system, but as far as we know, only Earth is a product of biological processes.
There is another wrench. Orbiter ExoMars Trace Gas of the European Space Agency, with the ability to detect 50 parts of methane per trillion in volume in the Martian atmosphere, collects data for just over a year and is now completely empty.
So any methane on Mars can exist very briefly on the surface before it disperses into the atmosphere. Whatever they find out – curiosity finds or does not detect methane again – NASA scientists will have more context to determine whether gas is transient or local to Gale Crater.
They were also in contact with the Trace Orbiter Gas Team at the ESA to check if atmospheric detection was made at the same time. This can help to find the gas source and calculate how long it will last in the atmosphere. Continue to observe this space.