Saturday, January 17, 2009

Methane on Mars: Biological or Geological?

I have been absent from New Frontiers for quite some time.  This was mainly due to lack of time, but because there have been many developments in the area of space exploration and astronomy I have decided to make time for this site and I hope you enjoy!

A great deal of buzz is being generated over NASA's recent findings on the release of methane on Mars.  The methane has been released during specific seasons and has been measured multiple times over the past decade.  Methane (CH4) can be a product of either geological or biological processes.  Though 90% of Earth's CH4 has biological origins.  One of NASA's Goddard research scientists had the following comments:

"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. "At northern mid-summer, methane is released at a rate comparable to that of the massive hydrocarbon seep at Coal Oil Point in Santa Barbara, Calif."

The next step is sending a mission up to Mars to determine the origin of the releases.  If it was microbes creating the gas then they would be several meters under the surface of the Red Planet and we would need the ability to drill this deep.  Scientists are taking this into account and could possibly outfit the Mars Science Laboratory Rover with a drill to take some samples.  

Either way something has to be going on to produce the methane and it will be very interesting to discover its source, whether biological, which could make this one of the greatest discoveries of our time, or just geological which would still change everything we thought we knew about our dusty neighbor.

Exciting stuff isn't it?  I will keep you updated with anything that comes up, and what is being planned to dig up the answer to this mystery.

Here is an interesting video from NASA on the methane discovery

Source:  NASA

I hope you enjoyed it!
The Fool 

Quote of the day:  
If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them. 
~Issac Assimov


Max-e said...

Hi it is good to have you back on stream. This is an interesting discovery and I would love to know what the source is. Won't the make the colonization of Mars hazardous though, or could this be a source of fuel. I eagerly await more information on this.
Thanks for the visit and the comments

Swubird said...


This is the most exciting news to date on the Mars/life issue. I can't wait for our next trip to the red planet, with a drill I hope. A few evenings ago I watched Life on Mars on PBS. I think we're really getting close to the most important discovery in history. I can't wait.

Happy trails.

Bob Johnson said...

Hi, good to see you back again, very interesting stuff, unfortunately NASA's only hope for any real answers to this and a ton of other questions, "Mars Science Laboratory" has been delayed 2 years, it's looking like we will never get to Mars, we lost the vision and the will for space travel.

The Fool said...

Hey Max, yes it could be used as a source of fuel, I'm not sure of the quantity that would be needed to really make it really economical but it definitely could be used. And considering how dangerous Mars would be already it couldn't make it that much more dangerous.

The Fool said...

Yea Swubird I think that a lot of people really are excited about this and it could get us back to Mars quicker, maybe not the US but possibly another nation. And I can't wait either.

The Fool said...

Hey Bob, you're right about the Mars Science Lab, and it really is too bad about he delay and although NASA may have lost their vision I don't think that we really have as a people. I know a lot of younger people who are really interested in space and its possibilities. Just keep hope.

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