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NASA Rover Adds New Twist to Mars Methane Mystery

Posted November 05, 2012 9:08 AM

The rover hasn't smelt it, but Mars may still have dealt it. That's the conclusion of the first attempt by NASA's Curiosity rover to find methane gas on the Red Planet.

On Earth most atmospheric methane comes from living sources, although it can also be made by non-biological processes. Methane on Mars might therefore be a sign of life deep below the planet's surface.

Hints of the gas have been swirling since 2003, when ground-based telescopes and a European orbiter detected its signatures in the Martian atmosphere. A 2009 study done with telescopes in Hawaii claimed to see localised plumes of methane, suggesting pockets of life may thrive in three spots near the planet's equator. That find has since proven controversial.

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#1

Re: NASA Rover Adds New Twist to Mars Methane Mystery

11/05/2012 11:33 AM

<...The rover hasn't smelt it...>

Methane doesn't smell. That's why mercaptans are added to "natural gas" before it is piped to homes in the UK; at least a gas leak is then detectable and can be stopped before it blows the place up.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: NASA Rover Adds New Twist to Mars Methane Mystery

11/06/2012 9:01 AM

In this case the "sniffer" is a spectrometer.

Like many places they just play fast and loose with the lexicon!!

Hooker

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#3
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Re: NASA Rover Adds New Twist to Mars Methane Mystery

11/07/2012 4:08 AM

Even on Mars, apparently.

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#4
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Re: NASA Rover Adds New Twist to Mars Methane Mystery

11/07/2012 8:22 AM

I've heard that it's even worse on Barsoom!

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