Data from According to a release, this is a surprise to researchers because previous data reported by U.S. and international scientists indicated positive detections.
The roving laboratory performed tests to search for traces of Martian methane. Whether the Martian atmosphere contains traces of the gas has been a question of high interest for years because methane could be a potential sign of life, although it also can be produced without biology.
"This important result will help direct our efforts to examine the possibility of life on Mars," said
"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,
Webster is the lead scientist for spectrometer, which is part of Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory. It can be tuned specifically for detection of trace methane. The laboratory also can concentrate any methane to increase the gas' ability to be detected. The rover team will use this method to check for methane at concentrations well below 1 part per billion.
Methane, the most abundant hydrocarbon in our solar system, has one carbon atom bound to four hydrogen atoms in each molecule. 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 Mars, were based on observations from Earth and from orbit around Mars. However, the measurements from Curiosity are not consistent with such concentrations, even if the methane had dispersed globally.
Curiosity landed inside
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According to a release, this is a surprise to researchers because previous data reported by U.S. and international scientists indicated positive detections.