Alien Termites? High Amount of Methane Detected on Mars, Sparking Excitement About Possibility of Life

Monday, 24 June 2019 - 11:37AM
Mars
Alien Life
Monday, 24 June 2019 - 11:37AM
Alien Termites? High Amount of Methane Detected on Mars, Sparking Excitement About Possibility of Life
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NASA
NASA has reported that the Mars Curiosity Rover has detected high levels of methane – a hydrocarbon often produced by microbes and other lifeforms – in an area called Teal Ridge in a Martian crater it's exploring. The amount detected – 21 parts per billion (PPB) – by the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laser spectrometer is three times greater than the highest amount previously recorded in 2013. Although the discovery has researchers excited about the possibility of life on the red planet, NASA scientists are cautious about jumping to conclusions. 


"With our current measurements, we have no way of telling if the methane source is biology or geology, or even ancient or modern," SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center said in a statement. Although natural sources of methane on Earth include microbes, termites, decomposing organic matter, and wetland emissions, it can also be produced by certain geological processes. The next step would presumably be to locate the source of the gas.


Even if nothing living is found, the discovery could still hold promise for extraterrestrial life, even if extinct. "A leading idea," said Mike Mumma of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD in 2016, "is that methane on Mars is being released from underground reservoirs created by past biology." That may mean that there was life on Mars at some point that is slowly decomposing.


Or it could mean that rover has stumbled upon a Martian termite mound. We're hoping for that.






Science
NASA
Mars
Alien Life
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