As late as June, NASA revealed that the sensors on its Curiosity rover were returning alarmingly high methane, which seemed out of nowhere. Determining where this methane comes from – and whether the process responsible for it is geological or biological – is now a major area of research for scientists. A new study, led by the University of Newcastle, does not offer a definitive answer, but we are approaching a painful step.
In an article published in Scientific Reports researchers effectively excluded one possible source of methane, arguing that, based on observations of Mars erosion, methane was unlikely to result from the collapse of rocks and the release of gas into the air.
Changes in the background levels of methane in Mars air have been detected for some time now and no one is really sure what is responsible. Methane can be created from microbial life, but there are geological processes ̵
In simple terms, Mars methane is not a smoking cigarette that life exists (or exists at all) on the planet, so scientists are working to narrow the possibilities. In this new study, researchers broke down the number of erosion on Mars and tried to match it with seasonal changes in background methane levels.
When they investigated all within themselves, they could not create a stable information link between wind erosion and methane spikes, which means that it probably came from another source. The abolition of wind erosion means that there is one less potential geological source of methane, but this does not prove that methane is the result of biological sources.
"Still an issue. Our paper is only part of a much larger story, "said Dr. Emal Safi, lead author of the piece. "Ultimately, what we're trying to find is whether there is an opportunity to live on planets other than our own, or to live now, or perhaps a life in the past that is now preserved as fossils or chemical signatures."  Image source: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS