Methane found in Martian meteorites on Earth2 min read

A group of scientists have cracked open six meteorites and found an element that might help them in the search for life on Mars.

Researchers found the space debris contained gasses in proportion with those of Mars‘ atmosphere, including methane, a gas that some microbes can use as food.

Artist's conception of a Martian meteorite. IMAGE: MICHAEL S. HELFENBEIN

Artist’s conception of a Martian meteorite.
IMAGE: MICHAEL S. HELFENBEIN

While this new discovery — which was detailed in a new study published in the journal Nature Communications this week — isn’t proof of life on the red planet, it adds to the growing body of evidence that methane exists, in some capacity, on Mars.

“Even if Martian methane does not directly feed microbes, it may signal the presence of a warm, wet, chemically reactive environment where life could thrive,” Sean McMahon, co-author of the research said in a statement.

The meteorites studied by researchers were found on Earth after they were blasted out from Mars sometime in the planet’s past. Even though these rocks left Mars, they took a piece of the red planet with them.

Much of Earth’s methane is created through the biological processes of organisms, but that isn’t the only way the gas is created. Methane can also be unleashed due to geological events such as volcanic eruptions.

Earlier studies by space probes exploring Mars have also found methane in the Martian atmosphere. The European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission sniffed out methane in the atmosphere, and in 2014, the Curiosity rover detected a burp of the gas on Mars. India’s Mars orbiter, currently exploring the red planet, also has the potential to seek out methane in Mars’ atmosphere.

A crater on Mars. | IMAGE: NASA/JPL/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

A crater on Mars. | IMAGE: NASA/JPL/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

“One of the most exciting developments in the exploration of Mars has been the suggestion of methane in the Martian atmosphere,” University of Aberdeen professor John Parnell, who directed the research, said in a statement.

“Recent and forthcoming missions by NASA and the European Space Agency, respectively, are looking at this, however, it is so far unclear where the methane comes from, and even whether it is really there,” he added. “However, our research provides a strong indication that rocks on Mars contain a large reservoir of methane.”

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Sebastien Clarke

Astronaut is dedicated to bringing you the latest news, reviews and information from the world of space, entertainment, sci-fi and technology. With videos, images, forums, blogs and more, get involved today & join our community!
Sebastien Clarke
Sebastien Clarke

Astronaut is dedicated to bringing you the latest news, reviews and information from the world of space, entertainment, sci-fi and technology. With videos, images, forums, blogs and more, get involved today & join our community!

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