The rover Curiosity found indirect signs of life

Unusually high levels found on Marsmethane, which may indicate life on the planet, reports The New York Times, citing the NASA aerospace agency. The official announcement from NASA has not yet happened, but according to the source, the US space agency experts analyzed data collected this week on Thursday collected by the rover Curiosity and found a significant amount of methane in the atmosphere of Mars, which is usually produced alive on Earth by organisms.

"Considering how amazing wereresults, we restructured our schedule to conduct an experiment at the weekend, which will confirm or refute our observations, ”mission officer Eswin R. Vasawada wrote in a Times email.

On Friday, the mission team on Earth requestedMars rover additional data to check and find out if it is true that there can be live microorganisms on Mars capable of producing methane. Research results are expected on Monday, June 24th.

Is methane a sign of life?

People have long been fascinated by the probabilitythe existence of life on mars. However, NASA’s Viking spacecraft, which landed on the surface of the Red Planet in the 1970s, did not find anyone, having photographed only a desert landscape. Two decades later, scientists speculated that about 4 billion years ago, when Mars was very young, the planet was warmer, more humid and more habitable. At present, there are suggestions that life could once have existed on the surface of Mars, but later it migrated deeper beneath the surface, fleeing from the unfavorable conditions that came from above.

The presence of methane in a very thin atmospherepresent Mars is very important because the radiation of the Sun and chemical reactions can destroy its molecules in just a few centuries. The discovery of methane now suggests that it has recently entered the atmosphere.

On Earth, methane is produced by microbes.methanogens that live in places where there is a lack of oxygen, for example, deep underground, in the digestive tracts of animals (including humans) - methane is a by-product of their metabolism. However, methane can be produced in certain quantities as a result of geothermal reactions, where there is no question of biology. It is possible that the atmosphere of Mars, he fell from underground deposits through small cracks in the ground. Therefore, to draw final conclusions about its nature in NASA is not yet ready and therefore speak of the event as the "early scientific results."

Referring to agency representative, The New YorkThe Times indicates that the mission’s team will continue to analyze the data to maintain scientific credibility and will be able to make an official statement after that.

Mars has a very high concentration of methane.

This is not the first time that researchersfound traces of methane on Mars, but at the moment it was found in the highest concentration. About 15 years ago, it was found by the Mars Express European Space Agency spacecraft. However, at that time, its level of performance was so low that many scientists mistakenly mistaken it for a simple error in the data of the probe calculations.

Gone on the Red Planet in 2012, the rover“Curiosity” diligently analyzed soil samples in search of methane, which could also indicate the existence of life on Mars, but found nothing. Then in 2013, the rover discovered an unexpected surge of methane concentration in the ratio of 7 parts per billion, which lasted at least several months. Then the methane disappeared.

As part of the latest measurements, “Curiosity” “smelled” 21 methane particles per billion, which is three times more than in 2013. However, this discovery does not confirm anything yet.

The mission team of Curiosity has developeda special method that allows the device to capture even a small concentration of gas in the atmosphere using the tools available on board. Thanks to this, scientists found out that methane appears to appear in the atmosphere of Mars seasonally. New data from the Mars Express orbiter confirmed these observations, and also prompted scientists to think about exactly where methane can be taken from. However, the more modern and equipped with more sensitive scientific instruments the Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft, launched by the European Space Agency in 2016, could not detect the concentration of gas in the planet’s atmosphere.

According to Marco Juranna from the Nationalthe Institute of Astrophysics in Italy, who heads the program for measuring methane in the atmosphere of Mars using the Mars Express apparatus, the team of Curiosity, Mars Express and Trace Gas Orbiter are already discussing the latest finding of the American rover. He confirmed to the news source that he had been informed about the indicator of 21 parts per billion, but added that this is still preliminary results.

Juranna also added that on the same dayThe rover “Curiosity” obtained current data next to the Gale crater with a diameter of 154 kilometers over the same territory passed the European orbital probe Mars Express. According to Juranna, scientists also have at their hands data that was collected prior to the observations of the “Curiosity”, as well as later, including data obtained from the Trace Gas Orbiter.

“We have to check a lot of data. But some preliminary results will be at the beginning of the next week, ”explained Juranna.

You can discuss the news in our Telegram-chat.