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NASA’s Curiosity Takes Biggest Methane Measurement Yet

Mars rover Curiosity of the American Space Agency NASA has recorded their biggest measurement of methane so far. The robot has smelled methane in Mars number of times. However, it never found such a high concentration of methane like 21 parts per billion until now. This discovery is unique since on Earth methane is produced a lot by living beings. But, Mars was an exception. Constantly throughout its mission, Curiosity observed frequent spikes of methane and sensed background level which showed seasonal pattern.

Interestingly, the onboard chemistry lab of the robot, Sample Analysis at Mars Instrument found the presence of the gas, but the source remained unknown. Prime Investigator at SAM, Paul Mahaffy said that with their present measurements, they have no method to detect whether the origin of methane is geology or biology, contemporary or ancient. The case of methane at Mars is currently quite confusing. While Curiosity has measured methane spikes and European Mars Express satellite at Mars ‘orbit also confirmed of it, another spacecraft with better sensitivity never saw anything.

The other probe named Trace Gas Orbiter began their observation of Mars’ atmosphere during April 2017. It should have been able to find concentration of methane in parts per trillion. But, it is still a mystery why it could not find anything that Curiosity detected. Controllers at NASA ordered Curiosity to carry more air-sampling experiment in the weekend. The results should reach Earth by June 24th. Methane concentration in the atmosphere of Earth is 1,865 ppb. Therefore, its level on Mars from whatsoever source should still be in traces. The main methane emitters on Earth are from biomass, livestock, wetlands, landfills, burning of fossil-fuels and rice paddies. A geological procedure which produces methane is serpentinisation which produces the gas as an end result in a chain reaction when water gets into contact with specific rock minerals. It is possible that the gas Curiosity has seen has an ancient origin and is being currently released into atmosphere because the source underneath the ground has been disturbed.

James Wagner
James Wagner Subscriber

Aeronautical Engineering is the degree James Wagner holds currently but his love for online surfing and portals’ giving in information has sown a seed of writing in him. His passion for reading, adventure, listening to informative short movies or lectures has only peopled his groom as a writer. James is just 1 Year old to the field of content writing and hence is welcome to all the skills shared and learned in passing days.

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