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Waspie_Dwarf

Curiosity Detects No Methane on Mars [merged]

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NASA Curiosity Rover Detects No Methane on Mars

PASADENA, Calif. -- Data from NASA's Curiosity rover has revealed the Martian environment lacks methane. This is a surprise to researchers because previous data reported by U.S. and international scientists indicated positive detections.

The roving laboratory performed extensive tests to search for traces of Martian methane. Whether the Martian atmosphere contains traces of the gas has been a question of high interest for years because methane could be a potential sign of life, although it also can be produced without biology.

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The article didn't address the views of those who had previously reported detections, nor what may have been wrong with them. It just reported NASA's negative results and explained why the issue is important in the "search for life." Do you think this is the final answer or does it just create doubt?

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Do you think this is the final answer or does it just create doubt?

The final answer to the question, "is there methane in the Martian atmosphere" or to the question "is there life on Mars"?

To the first, just because there is no CH4 at the Curiosity rover site doesn't exclude it from being a localised thing and occurring elsewhere on the planet.

To the second, absence if evidence is not evidence of absence. The lack of detection of CH4 is not a nail in the coffin of life on Mars. It just means we are no further down the road of proving it's existence.

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Well I had thought it was clear in context that I was talking about the presence of methane. The article pointed out that any methane present anywhere on the planet would probably disperse planet wide (they didn't say it in so many words, but I think implied it by saying the gas is long-lasting). Therefore I got the impression they were asserting a definite no methane. However, it didn't address, accept to acknowledge, contrary findings of others.

I suppose it is probably the final answer unless scientific criticism appears shortly.

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I could go to mars and fart if you want lol.

Is there a limit on how much methane there needs to be to support life? There still could or could have been life there anything is possible.

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Methane is a biological product; I don't know that anything needs it to live, but I'd like to be so informed if I'm wrong. Yes I would say that the business of living can be conducted without producing methane, just not if you are a cow.

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Well I had thought it was clear in context that I was talking about the presence of methane.

Your question, given that you had mentioned both methane and the search for life in the previous sentence, was ambiguous.

Methane is a biological product

It can be, but it can also be produced by non-biological means such as the oxidation of iron. Even if methane had been detected it would not, therefore, have constituted proof of life.

The problem for the scientists now is to account for the discrpency in the findings. Positive results were obtained by Earth based telescopes and the European Mars Express orbiter. Either the original findings or the new findings are wrong OR there is an unknown process occurring on Mars which is removing methane from the atmosphere.

The hunt for methane is far from over. In 2016 a European/Russian mission will be launched to Mars. Called ExoMars it consists of a rover and an orbiter. The orbiter, the Trace Gas Observer will be able to detect methane in far lower concentrations than Mars Express could.

Before that will be NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN). Due for launch on 18th November it will arrive in 2014. It will orbit the planet in a highly elliptical path, allowing it to dip into the upper atmosphere and directly sample it. This too may provide more information on methane levels.

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

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Is there a limit on how much methane there needs to be to support life?

Methane is a biological product; I don't know that anything needs it to live, but I'd like to be so informed if I'm wrong.

Frank is quite right, methane is a product of life, an indicator that is is there rather than a requirement. It is not a by-product of all life, so not finding methane is not evidence that Mars is devoid of life.

Frank's answer got me wondering if there were bacteria which required methane, and it turns out there are, Methanotrophs:

Methanotrophs (sometimes called methanophiles) are prokaryotes that are able to metabolize methane as their only source of carbon and energy. They can grow aerobically or anaerobically and require single-carbon compounds to survive. Under aerobic conditions, they combine oxygen and methane to form formaldehyde, which is then incorporated into organic compounds via the serine pathway or the RuMP pathway.

Source: wikipedia

You learn something new every day.

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cries :cry:

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cries :cry:

I assume you are crying because of the title that Big Bad Voodoo give his thread (which I merged with the pre-existing thread). He called it "No Life On Mars". I shouldn't worry about that too much. The title was deceptive.

Lack of methane excludes only the presence of methane producing bacteria. Many bacteria produce no methane, hence this is not evidence of an absence of life on Mars. What it actually is is a failure to find evidence of a particular type of life on Mars.

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

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Frank Merton said "Methane is a biological product"

Yes but it can also be a geological product so even finding methane would not confirm anything only enhance the "possibility" of life.

I want there to life on Mars as much as anyone trust me but this is a blow for sure.

Also the rovers location does not matter, if methane was being produced it "should" be detectable anywhere on the planet as it would be carried on the winds all over the planet (just like mars' notorious dust storms).

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I want there to life on Mars as much as anyone trust me but this is a blow for sure.

It's a setback but not a catastrophic one. Not all life produces methane so this does not constitutes proof of the absence of life.

What it does do is open a whole new can of worms... why was methane detected previously?

As is so often the case space missions like this don't answer questions, but they do help us to know which questions to ask. There will be more than one PhD thesis written as a result of these findings.

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I hope we don't find evidence/proof of any life having ever existed on Mars - because that would mean we are still behind the Great Filter. So, personally I'm hoping to find absolutely nothing.

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I hope we don't find evidence/proof of any life having ever existed on Mars - because that would mean we are still behind the Great Filter. So, personally I'm hoping to find absolutely nothing.

Discovering life on Mars would not change anything in relation to the Great Filter hypothesis, not least because it has no evidence to support it anyway. It is just one of many arguments against, or attempting to explain, the Fermi Paradox. If there is truth to the Great Filter hypothesis then we are where we are. The discovery (or not) of life on Mars would change nothing.

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

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