Lack of Methane Deals Blow to Martian Life Theory
In a blow to the theory that life could still exist on Mars, the U.S. space agency,
The discovery of methane could have been a potential sign that microbial life still exists on Mars. Scientists note, however, that the lack of methane doesn't necessarily mean the planet is devoid of life.
Previous reports of localized methane concentrations up to 45 parts per billion on Mars, which sparked interest in the possibility of a biological source on the planet, were based on observations from Earth and from orbit around Mars. However, the measurements from Curiosity were not consistent with such concentrations, even if the methane had dispersed globally.
"This important result will help direct our efforts to examine the possibility of life on Mars," said
Curiosity analyzed samples of the Martian atmosphere for methane six times between October, 2012 and June of this year and detected none. Given the sensitivity of the instrument used, the Tunable Laser Spectrometer, and not detecting the gas, scientists calculate the amount of methane in the Martian atmosphere today, if any, could be no more than 1.3 parts per billion.
"It would have been exciting to find methane, but we have high confidence in our measurements, and the progress in expanding knowledge is what's really important," said the report's lead author,
Methane, researchers said, would not disappear from the atmosphere quickly, meaning there can't be much of the gas being added to the atmosphere by any mechanism, whether biology, geology, or by ultraviolet degradation of organics delivered by the fall of meteorites or interplanetary dust particles.
Curiosity landed inside
Details of the findings appear in the Thursday edition of Science Express.
Most Popular Stories
- 5 Potential Snags to the Bipartisan Budget Deal
- Phil Pustejovsky's Relief Real Estate Offers Seminars in Daytona Beach
- Rubio Offers Endorsements, Cash to 2014 GOP Candidates
- Legal Dope in Uruguay Breaks International Law, Says Buzzkill U.N.
- GM Plant Tackles Tough Waste Challenge
- Sonoma Growers Win Emerald Cup Cannabis Competition
- Cantor Fitzgerald Settles Suit
- Pope Removes U.S. Archbishop from Powerful Post
- Researchers Question Effectiveness of Vitamins
- Vets Vow to Fight for Benefits in Budget Battle