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Space & Astronomy

Has Curiosity found evidence of life on Mars?

By T.K. Randall
December 17, 2014 · Comment icon 29 comments

What is producing methane on Mars ? Image Credit: NASA
NASA's exploratory rover has discovered mysterious 'belches' of methane gas on the surface of Mars.
Methane is a particularly important find because on Earth more than 90% of all methane gas is produced by living organisms.

Its confirmed discovery on Mars has been hailed as "very exciting" by scientists and suggests that there must be some unknown active process on the planet responsible for producing it.

The readings were picked up over a two-month period by the rover's Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TAS) instrument.
"I'm going to go out on a limb here and say flat-out, I consider this to be the first truly credible detection of methane in the atmosphere," said Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado.

"A lot of questions have been raised about Earth-based telescopic measurements. This is incontrovertible. That makes it a very profound measurement."

The way in which the methane seemed to spike and then dissipate suggests that its source must have been small and close to the rover as oppose to being large and further away.

There is in fact a chance, albeit a small one, that Curiosity may have picked up the first direct evidence of extraterrestrial organisms living on the surface of Mars.

Comments (29)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #20 Posted by qxcontinuum 10 years ago
Oh like the fossilised skulls and various critters? no, like shells embedded in rocks, metallic object sticking out of the ground, etc.
Comment icon #21 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 10 years ago
no, like shells embedded in rocks, metallic object sticking out of the ground, etc. No they didn't ignore them, NASA employs some of the best geoloigsts, planetary scientists and astrobiologists in the world. These people know what constitutes a sign of life and what constitutes a rock. They all agree they are just rocks. Now when it comes to believing the best scientists in the world or you I know who I am going to believe.
Comment icon #22 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 10 years ago
...but is it or would it be "alien" life if it's within our own solar system and living off of THE SUN? Of course it would. If it is not terrestrial life it must, by definition, be alien life. It will be alien life even if it shares the same origin as life on Earth.
Comment icon #23 Posted by bison 10 years ago
Further inquiry revealed that the mass spectrometer on Curiosity can not do isotope ratio analyses at methane levels lower than tens of parts per billion. We'll have to hope for a future methane release five or ten times as large as the one currently being discussed. Then we might have a reasonable chance of answering the question about life on Mars, by this method.
Comment icon #24 Posted by Fox Mccloud 10 years ago
Anyone else read or hear Curiosity drilled a hole and found water?
Comment icon #25 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 10 years ago
Anyone else read or hear Curiosity drilled a hole and found water? Nope. Did you?
Comment icon #26 Posted by seeder 10 years ago
Anyone else read or hear Curiosity drilled a hole and found water? LINK if you can!
Comment icon #27 Posted by bison 10 years ago
Below, find a link to the story about water found inside a rock that was drilled into by the Curiosity rover. This wasn't liquid water, but chemically bound up in the rock-- hydrated minerals. They judged by the hydrogen isotope ratio that Mars had already lost much of its surface water at the time these mineral were formed, but still had a substantial amount to loose, before the conditions we observe today were reached. This finding seems to fill in a gap in our knowledge of the natural history of Mars.
Comment icon #28 Posted by KevinP 10 years ago
You have to understand that finding "organic" chemicals isn't the same as finding life. It is a huge step in the right direction, but there is still a way to go before we can say there was or is life on Mars just yet.
Comment icon #29 Posted by JinxDeMynx 10 years ago
I'm not saying its aliens but.. "Aliens".

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