NASA Curiosity Rover Finds New Methane Spike On Mars

Pablo Tucker
June 26, 2019

The reading, of about 21 parts per billion, was three times greater than the previous maximum observation taken in 2013. Scientists first detected methane on Mars fifteen years ago, with the aid of data collected by ESA's Mars Express spacecraft.

Curiosity touched down on the red planet in August 2012 and has recorded a number of sharp spikes in methane and a fluctuating background level of the gas that appears to rise and fall with the seasons. Indicating high probability of life on Mars.

The science team for Curiosity will take time to study the measurements and prepare for more detections.


A new image captured by NASA's Mars Curiosity rover shows something that, at the moment, remains unexplained: a bright flash popping up, seemingly out of nowhere, and with no indication of what may have caused it.

"This is the first time we have Trace Gas Orbiter observations so close in time and space from the detection of methane on Mars".

Mahaffy is principal investigator of Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, which detected the recent surge.


Curiosity has detected methane in the past, albeit at much lower concentrations.

For example, the Trace Gas Orbiter, a joint European-Russian probe created to hunt for methane and other low-abundance gases in the Martian atmosphere, found hardly any methane at all during its first round of observations past year. It's present in other places in our solar system that could host life, like Saturn and Jupiter's moons Enceladus, Europa and Titan. One possible explanation is that any methane released on the planet is broken down before it reaches the altitude of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).

For context, the concentration of methane in Earth's atmosphere is 1,865ppb. And if life does exist elsewhere, it may be very different or even form differently from how we understand life on Earth. The Methane gas detected might simply be the ancient gas captured in the planet. At the right temperatures, carbonate rocks (which naturally contain carbon dioxide) can interact with liquid water, thus forming methane. Curiosity was sent to the crater in part because its watery past makes it a likely spot to find evidence of past life on Mars.


The researchers will continue to investigate the data and see if they can find more evidence that will back up the theory and if it proves to be real, finding life on Mars, even in microbial form, would be an awesome discovery.

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