A rather old question surrounding methane emission on Mars has recently resurfaces as Rover is accused by some of being the source of methane leaks.
Decades ago, the Mariner 7 spacecraft landed on the Red Planet and informed scientists back home that methane leaks were detected near Mars’s Southern Pole. At that time, the data was retrospectively reviewed and, as it stood out, the whiff picked up by Mariner 7 came from CO2 ice.
More recently, 2004 saw the reigniting of the troubling mystery when data retrieved from earthbound telescopes indicated that Mars’s atmosphere was ridden by methane clouds.
In itself, the discovery would be the herald of good news. Any constant level of methane in Mars’s atmosphere would imply that underneath the surface of the planet at least there is a small chance of thriving life.
The issues are rising when the unexpected methane puffs disappear as suddenly as they appeared. The phenomenon is raising questions over the accuracy of data and measurements. At the same time, it is bringing the question of whether it could be a seasonal happening to the front.
Part of Curiosity’s mission is to find an answer to the matter as well. From October 2012 to June 2013 Curiosity sampled the atmosphere of the red planet six times. No methane whiff was caught up with during that time. Only months later a methane burst was captured by the rover four times over two months.
Kevin Zahnle – NASA Ames Researcher Center in Moffett Field remains skeptical and reserved on the matter.
“I am convinced that they really are seeing methane. But I’m thinking that it has to be coming from the rover.”
His skepticism is based on facts. Indeed, before launching Curiosity Rover in its mission, the scientists discovered that terrestrial air infiltrated in one chamber. The concentration of methane in the rover’s chamber is 1,000 times higher than what was found so far in Mars’s atmosphere.
Chris Webster, the senior researcher from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena stated that the methane amount is being under constant supervision and no leaks were registered so far.
Therefore, it seems implausible that Curiosity is responsible for the methane spikes in Mars’s atmosphere. Looking at amounts and not at concentration levels is also an indication that further proves allegations are not really based on facts.
New measurements are in plan this year around the same time as the methane spike was registered back in 2013. If any methane is found during the measurements, Curiosity might help scientists prove that a seasonal occurrence is taking place, which indicates biological activity on Mars.
Image Source: mirrordaily.com