Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



Researchers Detect Methane On Mars

"While it's tantalizing to think there are living things on Mars, we aren't in a position to say that is what is causing the methane."
Ann Arbor MI (SPX) Oct 29, 2004
A University of Michigan scientist is part of a European Space Agency team that has detected methane gas on Mars, the clearest indicator yet that there could be life there, said Sushil Atreya, professor and director of the Planetary Science Laboratory in the College of Engineering.

"Biologically produced methane is one of many possibilities," Atreya said. "Methane is a potential biomarker, if a planet has methane we begin to think of the possibility of life on the planet. On Earth, methane is almost entirely derived from biological sources."

Mars resembles Earth more than any other planet in our solar system, and studying its atmosphere gives us a greater understanding of our own.

How the methane got to Mars is the big question, and there are several possible sources, Atreya said. The most exciting scenario is that methanogens - microbes that consume the Martian hydrogen or carbon monoxide for energy and exhale methane - dwell in colonies out of sight beneath the surface of the red planet.

"These are anaerobic so they don't need oxygen to survive, if they are there," Atreya said. "If they are there, they would be underground."

Speculation is tempting, but many more experiments are necessary before drawing any conclusions.

"While it's tantalizing to think there are living things on Mars, we aren't in a position to say that is what is causing the methane," Atreya said.

A comet could have struck the planet, which would leave methane behind, but that only happens once every 60 million years or so, Atreya said. A more likely scenario is hydrothermal process involving chemical interaction between rock and water in aquifers below the Martian permafrost.

The instrument that sniffed out the methane is called a planetary Fourier spectrometer, and it is one of seven instruments on board the Mars Express spacecraft.

The spectrometer measures the Sun's infrared light that has been absorbed, emitted and scattered by the molecules in the Martian atmosphere. Every molecule has a unique spectral property - think of it as an infrared fingerprint - including methane.

The spectrometer detected an average 10 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) of methane on Mars, a small amount compared to the approximately 1700 ppbv on Earth. The methane gas was distributed unevenly over Mars' surface, which tends to support the theory that an internal, on-site source, rather than a comet, is the source generating the methane, said Atreya.

Mars Express launched in June 2003, and it is the first Western European trip to another planet.

Related Links
Mars Express at ESA
SpaceDaily
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

Mars Life Looms Closer
Washington (UPI) Sep 21, 2004
The old saying that big things can come in small packages might be exactly appropriate for a tiny but explosive amount of data that researchers have produced concerning Mars.


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only






Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News








The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.