Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

What has Nasa found on Mars? Alien life? Watch announcement livestream here


The Mars Curiosity rover is sniffing methane in the Martian air but NASA researchers suspect that the distinctive gas-often a sign of life on Earth-may be leaking from buried deposits and not from microbes living on the Red Planet today, space agency scientists said Thursday.

Organic molecules pop up frequently in space, but it's neat that Mars had life's building blocks during a time when many think it was more habitable.

The Mars 2020 rover will scan the Red Planet for signs of ancient life by studying terrain that once consisted of flowing rivers and lakes more than 3.5 billion years ago.

Paul Mahaffy, director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, explained that the objective of the mission was to explore the possibility of sustaining life on Mars.

The second paper investigates a problem that has been disturbing Mars scientists for several years: the abundance of methane in Mars' atmosphere.

Although there is not enough information to know whether the carbon molecules were created by biological or non-biological processes, it is possible that they could be a source of methane, Dr Eigenbrode said.

Nasa is now revealing the latest findings of its Curiosity Rover at a press conference. We might find even more evidence in future missions, too. Methane levels reach 0.6 parts per billion during the summer, but that number is only one-third as high during the winter season. The magnitude of these seasonal peaks - by a factor of three - was far more than scientists expected. This is all written down: the Union Aerospace Corporation went digging around Mars-quite possibly lured in by the discovery of ancient organic material-one thing led to another, and they opened a portal to Hell.

"We have just satisfied a mission objective for Curiosity", says Jennifer Eigenbrode, study lead author and a member of the Mars Science Laboratory mission team.

In addition to finding organic molecules in the rocks in Gale Crater, rover scientists are reporting another intriguing finding. "We thought Mars was dead internally", Harrison said.

Even though the TGO mission can't get as close to the source as the Curiosity Rover, Dr Webster said it could locate potential areas where methane is concentrated or coming from.

"We have no proof that the methane is formed biologically, but we can not rule it out, even with this new data set", Webster said.

The fact that similar molecules were also present at this new site suggests that this kind of organic material is present in abundance. So they looked elsewhere. I'll tell you what comes from Mars: Hell. The key samples in the latest findings came from a spot 6.4 kilometres away. The rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument cooked some of the Martian dirt and unlocked some long-hidden carbon-containing molecules, some with sulfur and others with relatively complex structure.

At this point, we simply don't know whether the origin is biological or geological.

Over the years, scientists have amassed a number of clues that can help answer the question of Mars' habitability, including evidence of liquid water.

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