methane; On Earth, it’s the stuff of cow wind and burps. On Mars, it’s a puzzle. Scientists were confused about methane readings from Mars, and NASA may be a step closer to figuring out what’s going on With gas on the red planet. It turns out that the time of day has a huge impact on methane discoveries.
Methane is particularly interesting because it can be a byproduct of living organisms, including microbes. Researchers are trying to find out whether Mars once hosted microbial life, or whether it is likely that microbes live there now. But don’t overdo it. Methane can also have a geological origin.
The strange thing about methane on the Red Planet is that NASA’s Curiosity spacecraft has detected gas near the surface in Gale Crater, but the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft does not see methane in the upper atmosphere. what’s going?
Curiosity’s Tunable Laser Spectrometer is part of the analysis of samples in the Mars system, which is essentially a portable chemistry laboratory. TLS usually detects a small amount of methane NASA describes “The equivalent of a diluted pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.” In 2019, TLS significantly detected a large number of . files .
The orbiter ExoMars, which arrived at Mars in 2016, wasn’t seeing what Curiosity sees. “But when the European team announced that it didn’t see methane, I was definitely shocked.” TLS chief Chris Webster said in a NASA statement Tuesday.
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The discrepancy may be due to the times of day that the orbiter and rover operate. Rover’s power-hungry TLS operates at night so it doesn’t conflict with other gadgets. The probe monitors it during the day when it has sunlight to help it. What may happen is that methane collects near the surface during quiet nights and dissipates during the day, making it invisible to the spacecraft.
The Curiosity team tested this idea by taking methane measurements during the day, and the gas actually disappeared during the day. Researchers Their findings were published today in the Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics (PDF link).
While a methane gas mystery may have an explanation, another gas mystery remains. NASA is still trying to solve the “global methane mystery of Mars.” The methane emitted from Mars’ craters must remain stable enough – and accumulate in the atmosphere enough – to be detected by the orbiting gas tracker.
Scientists are now investigating what methane can destroy. “We need to determine if there is a faster-than-normal destruction mechanism to fully reconcile the data sets from the rover and the spacecraft,” Webster said. Until then, Martian methane will remain a mystery.
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