Life on Mars hopes fade after methane findings (Update)

Sep 19, 2013 by Jean-Louis Santini
This image released by NASA on February 7, 2013, shows a self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity taken February 3, 2013.

Hopes of finding life on Mars suffered a setback after new findings from NASA's Curiosity rover detected only trace amounts of methane gas in the Red Planet's atmosphere, a study said Thursday.

In the past decade, scientists have reported large "plumes" of methane in the Martian atmosphere, findings that have remained controversial because they were made on the basis of observations from Earth or an orbiting satellite.

Researchers said in March 2003 that they had found a cloud near the Martian equator containing some 19,000 tons of methane, considered a key indicator of microbial life.

However, analysis of data from Curiosity's onboard instruments shows only trace amounts of methane in Mars's atmosphere.

Scientists said Curiosity's findings indicated that the maximum level of methane was 1.3 parts per billion by volume—about six times lower than previous estimates.

The low atmospheric methane level greatly reduces chances that Martian soil contains living microbes or organic fossil materials that would produce the gas, scientists said.

Michael Meyer, NASA's lead scientist for Mars exploration, did not definitively rule out the possibility of finding life in the planet's soil following the methane findings.

"This important result will help direct our efforts to examine the possibility of life on Mars," he said.

"It reduces the probability of current methane-producing Martian microbes, but this addresses only one type of microbial metabolism. As we know, there are many types of terrestrial microbes that don't generate methane."

The findings also reduce the likelihood of significant levels of methane being produced geologically or from meteorites, according to California Institute of Technology researcher Christopher Webster, co-author of the study published in the journal Science.

"It would have been exciting to find methane, but we have high confidence in our measurements, and the progress in expanding knowledge is what's really important," said Webster of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"We measured repeatedly from Martian spring to late summer, but with no detection of methane."

Previously identified methane plumes may have been the result of misinterpretation of observations, including those made from Earth-based telescopes, according to the researchers.

One of the study's co-authors, Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, said the fact that so little methane was found in the atmosphere strongly suggested very little was being produced.

"There's no known way for methane to disappear quickly from the atmosphere," Atreya said.

"Methane is persistent. It would last for hundreds of years in the Martian atmosphere.

"Without a way to take it out of the atmosphere quicker, our measurements indicate there cannot be much methane being put into the atmosphere by any mechanism, whether biology, geology or by ultraviolet degradation of organics delivered by the fall of meteorites or interplanetary dust particles."

Curiosity, which touched down on the Martian equator in August 2012, has already established that Mars may have been hospitable to microbial life in the distant past.

In recent weeks, the robot has begun trundling on a five-mile (eight-kilometer) journey toward Mount Sharp, the two-year mission's main target for exploration.

The journey is expected to take several months, with Curiosity stopping along the way to analyze geological formations.

The foot of Mount Sharp is of particular interest because sedimentary layers may reveal when Mars was suitable for life, according to NASA.

Explore further: Photos: Curiosity rover's first year on Mars

More information: "Low Upper Limit to Methane Abundance on Mars," by C.R. Webster et al Science, 2013.

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El_Nose
3 / 5 (4) Sep 19, 2013
now people can stop with "you could make fuel from the air once we are on Mars to get back to Earth"
boater805
1.4 / 5 (9) Sep 19, 2013
now people can stop with "you could make fuel from the air once we are on Mars to get back to Earth"


Why would anyone make their own fuel when the Martians will just give them some of their's?
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 19, 2013
? The processes discussed all rely on the known atmosphere and ices (or shipped hydrogen). CO2 and H2O/H2 gives CH4 and O2 with catalysts and electricity/heat. (Say, electrolyze water ice to H2 and O2, then have a heat driven Sabatini process make CH4.)

Methane & oxygen are a rocket fuel, and that is why Musk aims at producing such engines eventually. (Cheap, but also indigenous fuel for return trips.)

The pair is also fuel in turbines as engines or for producing electricity & heat, as well as in similar heat engines. I dunno about car engines, you would probably want to convert it to methanol first.
Lurker2358
1 / 5 (19) Sep 19, 2013
Looks like evolutionists hopes of finding their billionth great uncle, or billionth cousin, whatever they are, are dashed.

Don't worry, monkey boys, there's always Gliese 581, or Europa, or, or, or...

depth12
4.7 / 5 (12) Sep 19, 2013
Looks like evolutionists hopes of finding their billionth great uncle, or billionth cousin, whatever they are, are dashed.

Don't worry, monkey boys, there's always Gliese 581, or Europa, or, or, or...


except its the same evolutionists who are looking for something called "evidence".. when there isn't any they accept it. can't say the same for some people (poster above me included).
ziphead
2.4 / 5 (16) Sep 19, 2013
Looks like evolutionists hopes of finding their billionth great uncle, or billionth cousin, whatever they are, are dashed.

Don't worry, monkey boys, there's always Gliese 581, or Europa, or, or, or...



Why are you so pleased about this?
True believers do not seek confirmation for their beliefs, scientific or otherwise.
Sinister1811
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 19, 2013
Are they going to look for life there with the next rover they send? Doesn't look like it's occupying a lot of niches. I think it's time we introduced life there instead.
Lurker2358
1.2 / 5 (19) Sep 19, 2013
Why are you so pleased about this?
True believers do not seek confirmation for their beliefs, scientific or otherwise.


They ought to know by now that panspermia is a false science.
depth12
3.5 / 5 (11) Sep 20, 2013
Why are you so pleased about this?
True believers do not seek confirmation for their beliefs, scientific or otherwise.


They ought to know by now that panspermia is a false science.


what is data to say this ? only one that mars does not contain life now. Like i said before some people can't understand evidence. All this does is confirmation there probably is no life now on Mars.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4 / 5 (12) Sep 20, 2013
Creationist trolling science is hilarious. And they help deconvert people from religion, see Dawkins's Convert's Corner. Thanks for that, guys!

That accepting biology is making you an "evolutionist" (aka evolutionary biologist aka biologist working on basic biology) is of course unintentionally meritorious for science readers.

@depth12: As the article says, the finding can't rule out even extant life. Methanogens were early on Earth, but it isn't the only pathway to life nor necessary a surviving clade. (Though if they once existed it is likely they will continue as such, so it is lowering likelihood for extant life.)

Panspermia is (at least originally) the idea of pervasive Milky Way seeding. That is less likely, people are looking at transpermia, seeding between habitable planets and moons within a system. Of course that isn't the main area of astrobiology interest here, which is research into habitability, but a creationist troll would neither know no care.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (8) Sep 20, 2013
They ought to know by now that panspermia is a false science.

It's a theory. There recently was an article here that explored whether life or organic precursors could survive the trip through space. And it seems that this is possible. On the down side the chances of life from ecosphere A being viable in ecosphere B are extremely remote.

Without any data it's hard to say whether panspermia/transpermia is a viable theory or not. Given we haven't looked anywhere much it's a bit early to proclaim it as false (neither is it the time to give it a probability value above zero. It's in the 'unknown' section for now).

And until such a time as we do some SERIOUS digging on Mars and find nothing I'd also be loathe to put a probability value on the 'life on Mars' theory.
vidyunmaya
1 / 5 (9) Sep 20, 2013
Sub: Identity Crisis- Space Cosmology Studies
Cosmic Consciousness to Cosmology Revision
search Space cosmology vedas interlinks- projections help knowledge Base creative index beyond mundane psychology.
Egleton
1.8 / 5 (10) Sep 20, 2013
My money is on Mars being dead because of the lack of volatiles. CO2 is pretty much at the botttom of any energy well and therefore stable.
And I have never been wrong before.
On Panspermia- of cause it has happened. Long before animals evolved on this planet Hardened mycium spores colonised it. They formed one giant mycelial matt that has shown problem solving abilities. The original planet's super-brain.
http://en.wikiped...otaxites
Then when the Goldilocks zone migrated outwards, threatening the existence of the Matt, it caused the great encephalization of various species as it could not manipulat objects.
The Apes brain was unable to expand any more due to overheating so it was bred with the Pig.
And here you are-and there is your purpose. To get the myceium to another rock, preferably closer to the galactic centre.
And you thought you had a grip on reality!
Lurker2358
1 / 5 (14) Sep 20, 2013
Quite right.

According to mainstream biologists, humans are descended from apes, but we are more closely "related" to worms, pigs, and mushrooms (yes, I've seen this claim made by Post Honorary Degree holding evolutionists), even though mushrooms are a completely different kingdom of life by their own classification system.

I'm beginning to suspect that you lunatics will quite literally say anything at all, just so long as it isn't true.
Egleton
1.9 / 5 (9) Sep 20, 2013
I'm just trying to amuse you. Good thing I have a day job.
depth12
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 20, 2013
Quite right.

According to mainstream biologists, humans are descended from apes, but we are more closely "related" to worms, pigs, and mushrooms (yes, I've seen this claim made by Post Honorary Degree holding evolutionists), even though mushrooms are a completely different kingdom of life by their own classification system.

I'm beginning to suspect that you lunatics will quite literally say anything at all, just so long as it isn't true.

And that classification is made by us, so it is easy to study. You didn't progress much in biology, i can see. when you come here spewing nonsense better read a lot, not some lines and act as an expert in the field.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (6) Sep 21, 2013
"Methane is persistent. It would last for hundreds of years." -says the guy from MI. But NASA says

""Methane is quickly destroyed in the Martian atmosphere in a variety of ways, so our discovery of substantial plumes of methane in the northern hemisphere of Mars in 2003 indicates some ongoing process is releasing the gas," said Dr. Michael Mumma of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md"

-I think somebody has to make a few phone calls.
you lunatics will say anything
Well at least we don't get our info from a book that condones cannibalism, human sacrifice, self-mutilation, slavery, genocide, and martyrdom. And capital punishment for insolent children.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (6) Sep 22, 2013
Looks like evolutionists hopes of finding their billionth great uncle, or billionth cousin, whatever they are, are dashed.

Don't worry, monkey boys, there's always Gliese 581, or Europa, or, or, or...


I understand creationists better now. Not so much a desire to win converts as it is a strong desire to eliminate things that might test their weak faith. Thus, postings like this, framing a wish that evolution now be discredited and a closed issue, never to be discussed again.