According to the reports of New York Times, NASA’s Curiosity Rover during its mission on the Martian surface has detected high levels of methane output. A gas that on Earth is usually produced by living things, was found by the robot during the measurement on Wednesday, and it was observed by the NASA scientists. On Thursday, the data arrived back and scientists working on the mission were excitedly discussing the news on Friday, But officially, this news has not yet been announced by NASA.
Due to output from living creatures, Methane is often present in higher concentrations in the air on Earth. Researchers are now working to get evidence to back up the theory that the gas is due to output from subterranean Martian microbes. Microbes known as methanogens on earth, are present in places lacking oxygen, such as rocks deep underground and the digestive tracts of animals. These microbes release methane as a waste product.
It can b possible that methane present on Mars may be not because of these microbes but it s ancient and trapped inside Mars for millions of years but now trying to escape through cracks. On Saturday, after the acknowledgement of the methane detection in a statement NASA called it “early science result.”
Using measurements from Mars Express, a decade and a half ago, scientists first reported detection of methane on Mars. Mars express is still in operation, it is an orbiting spacecraft built by the European Space Agency. Those findings were at the edge of the detection power of these tools but the methane might just be a mirage of mistaken data according to some researchers.
In 2012, when Curiosity arrived on Mars in search of methane it found nothing or at least less than 1 part per billion in the atmosphere. A sudden spike of up to 7 parts per billion were detected in 2013, and it lasted for least a couple of months. But this week, the measurements found is three times than 2013, it was 21 parts per billion of methane. A technique was developed by the Curiosity scientists that enabled the rover to detect even tinier amounts of methane with its existing tools.
Last year, a newer European spacecraft, the Trace Gas Orbiter which was launched in 2016, did not detect any methane at all in its first batch of scientific observations with its more sensitive tools.
Scientists on the Curiosity, Mars Express and Trace Gas Orbiter missions had been discussing the latest findings according to the scientist, Marco Giuranna, at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy. He led the Mars Express orbiter’s methane measurements.