Methane on Mars signals potential life

Date:24 June 2019 Author: Sam Spiller Tags:, , , , , , , , ,

The presence of methane supports a theory that there are living microbes on the Red Planet right now. If men are on Mars, they are giving off the gas to prove it… 

Considering all that exists beyond Earth, it’s difficult to fathom that our planet is the only one that supports life. That said, a new discovery on our red neighbour may suggest otherwise. The presence of methane, an organic gas that living things commonly produce, has recently been found on Mars. 

Last week, NASA received data from the Curiosity Rover (a space buggy of sorts, tasked with exploring the planet) that indicated large amounts of methane in the air. Scientists are currently working on a follow-up experiment to confirm this exciting report. This discovery equates to a possibility of life. In this case, those living things would take the form of microorganisms.

Ever since the first pictures of the planet’s surface were taken in the 1970s, scientists have conjectured that life on Mars was possible. It is argued that 4 billion years ago, Mars was a much different place, much warmer and wetter than it is now. The presence of methane could mean that microbes still exist underneath the surface, as the gas molecules take only a few hundred years to break up once exposed to sunlight – this means that the gas could not have not been around for long, signalling the possibility of current, or at least very recent, life on Mars.

According to the New York Times, NASA would not immediately confirm the find without running additional tests first. It’s possible that the methane could have just been trapped underground before being expelled now. Further testing is needed to ensure an accurate answer.

This is not the first time that the rover has picked up methane either. When it first arrived in 2012, it found none, but eventually detected a pocket in 2013. This has only added to the mystery surrounding the presence of the gas (and of extraterrestrial life).

The question of whether there is life on Mars will be further explored with the help of the next two rovers to be sent there: NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and a Russian-European collaboration, the Rosalind Franklin rover, both of which are designed to look for traces of the substances that would allow for life elsewhere in the cosmos.

Source: New York Times

Images: Pixabay

Latest Issue :

May / June 2021