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23rd Apr 2024

NASA has found ‘sign of life’ on Mars

Charlie Herbert

nasa discovers methane on mars

Scientists have been left baffled

NASA has found traces of a gas on Mars that is produced by living creatures on Earth.

The Curiosity Rover, which has been active on Mars for more than 11 and a half years, managed to detect traces of methane on the Red Planet.

The rover detected the gas coming from Gale Crater. The methane traces appeared at different times of the day and have been fluctuating seasonally, and sometimes spikes to levels 40 times higher than usua

Here on Earth, most of the methane is produced by animals as they digest food. Due to a distinct lack of cows or any other animals on Mars, scientists didn’t expect to find the gas on the planet.

Scientists believe the Mars methane comes from deep underground, encased in solidified salt and only released when temperatures rise on the planet or something breaks the crust, like Curiosity.

Researchers have been working in the lab to try and explain why the gas behaves strangely and is detected only in Gale Crater. 

A paper from a research group published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets suggested that methane could be sealed under solidified salt that might form in Martian regolith, which is “soil” made of broken rock and dust.

When temperature rises on the planet, this seal is weakened and the methane can seep out.

But whilst they have a theory as to how the gas is making its way to the surface, its true source is still a bit of a mystery.

It could be being produced by some sort of living organism, or it could be the result of geological processes beneath the planet’s surface.

Either way, methane existing on Mars is an exciting – and slightly confusing – discovery for scientists.

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