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Mars Methane

What Discovery has been Made by Curiosity in Mars Methane?

It is quite surprising that this week NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover made a discovery. They detected the highest recorded amount of mars methane when they started the mission to Mars. If we look at the keen details. Then it is approximately 21 parts per billion units by volume (ppbv). To ease your thinking what ppbv is, then if you take a volume of air on Mars. It is one billionth of that volume is compose of methane.

Who was Responsible for Sample Analysis at Mars Methane?

The rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) tunable laser spectrometer is responsible for this finding. This is very interesting because microbial life is a significant methane source on Earth. And methane can also be produce through interactions between rocks and water.

The Role of Curiosity’s Mars Methane Mystery:

Curiosity lacks instruments that can definitively identify the origin of the methane. Or they will determine whether it originates from a local source within Gale Crater or somewhere else on the planet.

Paul Mahaffy is SAM Principal Investigator of NASA in Maryland. He said:

“With our current measurements, we have no way of telling if the methane source is biology or geology, or even ancient or modern.”

Why the Knowledge of Curiosity’s Team is Very Limited in Mars Methane Mission?

The Curiosity team has identified methane on many occasions during the mission. Earlier studies gives us a knowledge that how the background levels of this gas is changes with time. Additionally, they’ve also observed sudden spikes in Mars methane concentrations. However, scientists believes that the understanding of team during these brief details are not full fledge. And the reasons for the changes of methane gas from seasonal patterns is not enough too.

To gain more detail about potential plumes, the SAM team conduct an experiment for this weekend. The scientists at Curiosity require time to analyze these clues and carry out some methane-related observations. They also need the opportunity to collaborate with other scientific teams. Which includes those affiliated with the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter too.

How the Trace Gas Orbiter of ESA Help out in Mars Methane Research?

The ESA’ orbiter has been in its scientific orbit for just over a year. During which it hasn’t detected any methane. So, when scientists combined data from both surface-based and orbital observations. It might assist researchers in pinpointing methane sources on the planet. And, this approach will pave the way on how long the gas persists in Mars’ atmosphere. Such an approach could further assists in the differences. This will provide a keen difference between the methane observations made by the Trace Gas Orbiter and Curiosity.

What are the Findings of Tunable Laser Spectrometer:

On average, the TLS (tunable laser spectrometer) has recorded Mars methane levels. And it has observed that less than half a part per billion by volume within Gale Crater. That is why, to put this into a perspective. It is like having roughly a pinch of salt spread out in an Olympic-size swimming pool. Besides these measurements, there have been perplexing instances of methane spikes reaching as high as 20 parts per billion by volume too.

Webster, who’s based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. He said:

“But when the European team announced that it saw no methane, I was definitely shocked.”

Let’s Know More About ESA’ TLS:

The European orbiter was specifically crafted to serve as the benchmark for methane and other methane gas measurements across the entire planet. That is why, Curiosity’s TLS is remarkably accurate. To the extent that it will be employed to provide early warnings for fires on the International Space Station and to monitor oxygen levels within astronaut suits.

Moreover, Mars methane has been authorized for utilization in power plants, along oil pipelines. And within fighter aircraft, offering pilots the capability to track oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in their breathing apparatus.

These findings from the European orbiter took Webster and the SAM team by surprise, prompting them to swiftly embark on an examination of the TLS measurements on Mars.

Mars Methane img 2
NASA’s Curiosity rover took this selfie on June 15, 2018, which was the 2082nd Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission. A dust storm had reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location, which was at the “Duluth” drill site just north of the Vera Rubin Ridge. A small drill hole is visible on the large boulder to the left of the rover. Self-portraits are created using images taken by Curiosity’s Mars Hands Lens Imager. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Some experts suggested that the rover itself was releasing the gas. For instance, Webster said:

“So we looked at correlations with the pointing of the rover, the ground, the crushing of rocks, the wheel degradation—you name it. I cannot overstate the effort the team has put into looking at every little detail to make sure those measurements are correct, and they are.”

Webster and his team reported their results today in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal.

What are the Findings of John E. Moores from York University in Toronto?

As the SAM team worked to confirm its methane detections. Another member of Curiosity’s science team, planetary scientist John E. Moores from York University in Toronto. He published an intriguing prediction in 2019.

“I took what some of my colleagues are calling a very Canadian view of this, in the sense that I asked the question: ‘What if Curiosity and the Trace Gas Orbiter are both right?”

Why shouldn’t there be methane in Mars atmosphere?

All three locations seem to have been saturate with liquid water in the distant past. In fact, the team discovered traces of water vapor within the plumes as well. Methane does not remain the sparse Martian atmosphere. As it is readily breaks down by the intense ultraviolet sunlight that permeates the planet.

Mars Methane img 3
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Did curiosity find methane on Mars?

This week, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover made a surprising discovery: it detected the highest recorded amount of methane since the mission began — approximately 21 parts per billion units by volume (ppbv). To put it simply, if you take a volume of air on Mars. It is one billionth of that volume of the methane.

Why is methane an important thing to explore if we are considering colonizing mars?

Additional transformations occurring within the Martian atmosphere could be a significant factor contributing to the noted seasonal fluctuations. Regardless of whether these transformations are link to geological or biological processes, the shifts in methane concentrations that have been documented suggest that Mars might still exhibit ongoing activity in the present day.

What the Scientists have been yet observed information related to Mars Methane?

Although this study indicates that methane levels goes ups, and downs over the day on the surface of Gale Crater. The larger puzzle regarding methane distribution across Mars is still a mystery. Methane is a stable molecule that should persist on Mars for around 300 years before solar radiation. However, scientists believe that something is causing methane to emits in under 300 years.

Experiments are currently underway to investigate important information. This will entails that whether minimal electric discharges triggered by dust on Mars could pull apart methane.

Webster said:

“We need to determine whether there’s a faster destruction mechanism than normal to fully reconcile the data sets from the rover and the orbiter”

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