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From NASA

June 23, 2019

This picture was taken by the left Navcam on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on June 18, 2019, the two,440th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. It reveals a part of “Teal Ridge,” which the rover has been finding out inside a area known as the “clay-bearing unit.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This week, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover discovered a shocking end result: the biggest quantity of methane ever measured through the mission — about 21 elements per billion items by quantity (ppbv). One ppbv implies that in case you take a quantity of air on Mars, one billionth of the amount of air is methane.

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The discovering got here from the rover’s Pattern Evaluation at Mars (SAM) tunable laser spectrometer. It’s thrilling as a result of microbial life is a crucial supply of methane on Earth, however methane can be created by means of interactions between rocks and water.

Curiosity doesn’t have devices that may definitively say what the supply of the methane is, or even when it’s coming from a neighborhood supply inside Gale Crater or elsewhere on the planet.

“With our present measurements, we have now no approach of telling if the methane supply is biology or geology, and even historical or fashionable,” mentioned SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Middle in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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The Curiosity staff has detected methane many occasions over the course of the mission. Earlier papers have documented how background ranges of the gasoline appear to rise and fall seasonally. They’ve additionally famous sudden spikes of methane, however the science staff is aware of little or no about how lengthy these transient plumes final or why they’re completely different from the seasonal patterns.

The SAM staff organized a special experiment for this weekend to assemble extra info on what may be a transient plume. No matter they discover — even when it’s an absence of methane — will add context to the current measurement.

Curiosity’s scientists want time to research these clues and conduct many extra methane observations. In addition they want time to collaborate with different science groups, together with these with the European House Company’s Hint Gasoline Orbiter, which has been in its science orbit for a bit over a 12 months with out detecting any methane. Combining observations from the floor and from orbit might assist scientists find sources of the gasoline on the planet and perceive how lengthy it lasts within the Martian environment. Which may clarify why the Hint Gasoline Orbiter’s and Curiosity’s methane observations have been so completely different.

For extra details about Curiosity, go to:

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/index.html

https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/

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