Mars methane readings have incited scientific controversy, back on Earth. NASA’s Curiosity sensors, recently, registered a substantial increase in methane gas, which led researchers to believe that the possibility of microbial life might not be that far away.
On our planet Earth, most of the methane gas is being produced by living organisms, so concentrations in large amount has been considered a sign of life. But a scientist is second guessing the source of methane gas, after the methane readings had set abuzz the scientific community.
A researcher at NASA Ames Research Center, Kevin Zahnle, who was un-involved in the conducted Curiosity research, recently enunciated his disagreement in a seminar at the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Lab in April.
Previously measured in Mars’ atmosphere by probes, methane measurements were undermined or either disregarded, deemed a mathematical miscalculation or unverifiable each time it occurred. This time however, scientists working with Curiosity stand by their research findings.
As explained by a senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the study lead author of the 2014 methane readings which was published in the journal Science in January, Chris Webster said, “While it’s true that the concentration of methane in that chamber is 1,000 times higher than in Mars’s atmosphere, the comparison is actually misleading. You have to look at the amount of methane, not the concentration.”
Still, it was acknowledged by Webster the validity of Zahnle’s concerns and that more research need to be done to rule out completely the rover as a source of methane. Webster says he together with his team will continue to watch for spikes of methane and consider new enlightenments for the 2014 readings.
Methane is also highly toxic. Its sudden rise may kill people.