June 23, 2019
This week, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover discovered a stunning end result: the biggest quantity of methane ever measured through the mission — about 21 elements per billion items by quantity (ppbv). One ppbv signifies that when you take a quantity of air on Mars, one billionth of the amount of air is methane.
The discovering got here from the rover’s Pattern Evaluation at Mars (SAM) tunable laser spectrometer. It’s thrilling as a result of microbial life is a vital supply of methane on Earth, however methane can be created by interactions between rocks and water.
Curiosity doesn’t have devices that may definitively say what the supply of the methane is, or even when it’s coming from a neighborhood supply inside Gale Crater or elsewhere on the planet.
“With our present measurements, now we have no approach of telling if the methane supply is biology or geology, and even historical or trendy,” mentioned SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Middle in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The Curiosity staff has detected methane many occasions over the course of the mission. Earlier papers have documented how background ranges of the gasoline appear to rise and fall seasonally. They’ve additionally famous sudden spikes of methane, however the science staff is aware of little or no about how lengthy these transient plumes final or why they’re totally different from the seasonal patterns.
The SAM staff organized a special experiment for this weekend to assemble extra info on what is perhaps a transient plume. No matter they discover — even when it’s an absence of methane — will add context to the current measurement.
Curiosity’s scientists want time to research these clues and conduct many extra methane observations. Additionally they want time to collaborate with different science groups, together with these with the European House Company’s Hint Fuel Orbiter, which has been in its science orbit for a bit over a yr with out detecting any methane. Combining observations from the floor and from orbit might assist scientists find sources of the gasoline on the planet and perceive how lengthy it lasts within the Martian environment. Which may clarify why the Hint Fuel Orbiter’s and Curiosity’s methane observations have been so totally different.
For extra details about Curiosity, go to: