The Curiosity rover of NASA has detected on Mars a high amount of methane in the air, a gas that is usually produced by living beings on earth. This is why the researchers who saw the first data, remained enthusiastic. To the point of changing the rover’s work program to better concentrate on these surveys in the next few hours.
The New York Times reports that Nasa has not yet officially communicated anything. The results of the new analyses will arrive on Tuesday 25 and probably there will be some further data to better understand the phenomenon and to understand if indeed even on the Red Planet the gas is produced by life forms in the subsoil.
Methane, if indeed there is in the rarefied Martian air, is a significant presence, because sunlight and chemical reactions break its molecules within a few centuries and therefore the one detected must have been released relatively recently.
On Earth, microbes known as methanogens thrive in oxygen-free places, such as underground rocks and animal digestive tracts, and release methane as a waste product. However, even non-biological geothermal reactions can generate methane. It is also possible that methane dates back a very long time and, trapped inside Mars for millions of years, it escapes periodically through cracks in the soil.
Scientists reported for the first time the presumed presence of methane on Mars 15 years ago using measurements from the Mars Express, an orbiting spacecraft built by the European Space Agency and which is still in operation, as well as by telescopes on Earth. However, these findings were on the verge of detecting the power of these tools and many researchers thought that methane could only be a mirage created by reading incorrect data.