Mars has methane, possible indicator of extraterrestrial life | Technology and Science | Sciences



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In the presence of methane in the atmosphere of Mars was confirmed by a new analysis of the probe data Mars Express, researchers announced, noting that gas may be an indicator of Microorganic life or well derived from geological processes.

The European Mars Express probe, in orbit around the planet from end of 2003already detected remains of methane in its atmosphere in 2004 thanks to its infrared spectrometer PFS. But, for technical reasons, these results were not totally convincing.

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In June 2018, the NASA he announced for his part that his mobile robot Curiosity detected methane in the Martian atmosphere on June 15, 2013, near the Gale Crater. These results "in situ", however, raised doubts, since some indicated that this methane could come from the mobile robot itself, recalled Marco Giuranna of the Italian Institute of Astrophysics in Rome.

Meanwhile, the international team led by this Italian researcher has been able to improve the quality of the data collected by the infrared spectrometer Mars Express, a mission of the European Space Agency (ESA).

"We have developed a new way of selecting, processing and retrieving data" from the spectrometer, explains Marco Giuranna. "This greatly reduces the uncertainties surrounding PFS measures," he adds.

Shortly after Curiosity landed in 2012 at Gale's impact crater, "I decided to do a long-term surveillance of the Martian atmosphere" at that location, explains the researcher, whose study was published in Natural Geosciences.

On June 16, 2013, one day after Curiosity, the Mars Express spectrometer recorded a "peak emission" of methane above the crater.

These results constitute an "independent confirmation of measures of curiosity," the study notes.

Finding methane (CH4) on Mars is very important to planetary specialists because "it can be an indicator of microbial life"says the researcher. But the presence of this gas may be the result of geochemical reactions, not related to life.

In addition, Marco Giuranna's team believes it has been able to locate the source of this methane emission in a fault region east of Galé Crater.

For this, the scientists conducted two separate studies, one based on digital modeling and another based on a geological analysis of the site. The results of both studies converged on the same area. "It's very exciting and very unexpected," says the Italian researcher enthusiastically.

"We identified tectonic faults that can extend under a region covered by a thin layer of ice (…) It is possible that ice will retain methane below the surface and launch it episodically when the flaws break, "added Giuseppe Ethiopian of the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology in Rome.

(Source: AFP)

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