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The Methane Mystery

The Methane Mystery

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Wednesday, June 26, 2019/Categories: natural history, space science, sustainability, environment, adventure

                                              Mars Curiosity Rover on Mount Sharp, Mars (credit: JPL)

A significant 'burp' of methane was recently detected by the Curiosity Rover as it continued climbing Mount Sharp on Mars. Methane had been detected before but not in high concentrations. According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, that manages the Curiosity mission for NASA, this was the largest amount of the methane Curiosity has found and was similar to smaller, transient plumes observed on Mars before.

The results are exciting since methane (CH4) on Earth is produced from biological decomposition of dead materials by bacteria and fungi, or methanogens. The gas can also be produced from geologic activity, hence the mystery as to its origins on Mars. The  curiosity rover doesn't carry instruments that can determine the definite methane source but in tandem with satellites in Mars orbit they may be able to add more clues.

As JPL managers said, the methane mystery continues".



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