NASA’s Curiosity rover made a big discovery this week hinting to life on Mars! It found gas that could be a sign of microbes living on the planet today.
The rover made some measurements on Wednesday detecting a large amount of methane, which is typically produced by living things. The high amount of methane in the Martian air indicates microbes could survive on the red planet.
Curiosity detected 21 methane parts per billion (ppb). But that’s not too much when compared to the 7 ppb detected in a 2013 spike and 1 ppb detected when the rover initially arrived on the red planet.
Just what this amount of methane means is still unclear. It could mean microbial life exists today, possibly under the Martian ground. But it could also hint to geothermal reactions or ages-old methane finally escaping to the surface.
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However, Thomas Zurbuchen, from Nasa’s science mission directorate, advised people not to jump to any conclusions about the methane detection in a message on Twitter.
“While increased methane levels measured by Mars Curiosity are exciting, as possible indicators for life, it’s important to remember this is an early science result,” he wrote. “To maintain scientific integrity, the science team will continue to analyze the data before confirming results.”
While increased methane levels measured by @MarsCuriosity are exciting, as possible indicators for life, it’s important to remember this is an early science result. To maintain scientific integrity, the #science team will continue to analyze the data before confirming results. pic.twitter.com/zSrONQHuc5— Thomas Zurbuchen (@Dr_ThomasZ) June 22, 2019
But if scientists can confirm the presence of methane, the greater challenge is finding ways to study it in more detail.