Methane, a latent sign of primitive life, were found in Martian meteorites, adding to the idea that life could live off methane on the Red Plane, researchers say.
Though this discovery is not proof for the existence of life, or that life has ever existed on Mars. But according to Nigel Blamey, study lead author and a geochemist from the Brock University in St. Catharines, Canada, told Space.com that methane “is an ingredient that could potentially support microbial activity on the Red Planet.”
Methane is an odorless, colorless, flammable gas and the simplest organic molecule, first found in the Martian atmosphere by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft in 2003. While the Curiosity rover of NASA detected a spike of methane at its landing site last year.
The majority of the methane found in Earth’s atmosphere is produced by life, like cattle digesting food. But, there are other ways of methane production without life, like volcanic activity.
To resolve the nature of the methane found on Mars, Blamey and his colleagues examined rocks that were launched from Mars by intergalactic impacts and later fell to Earth as meteorites.
Scientists tested 6 meteorites from Mars. To avoid terrestrial contamination, the samples were taken from the interiors of the rocks. The researchers discovered that all six meteorites free methane and other gases when crushed, most likely from the small pockets inside.
“The biggest surprise was how large the methane signals were,” Blamey disclosed.