Earth-based spectography has confirmed earlier hints, from probes orbiting Mars, of plumes of Methane gas, the strongest sign of a native biosphere since modern remote sensing of the fourth planet began more than forty years ago.
From the San Francisco Chronicle: The scientists, from NASA and other U.S. institutions, found high concentrations of methane that are consistent with methane plumes produced by underground bacteria on Earth.
The observations have reignited a life-on-Mars debate that began in 1996 when NASA astrobiologist David McKay and several other colleagues announced that a meteorite from Mars contained evidence of bacteria.
Since then, in absence of more substantive proof, most scientists have discounted McKay’s findings. But that may now change.
“I think this is extremely strong evidence for current life on Mars,” said McKay, who works at Johnson Space Center.
“It doesn’t prove it. But, to me, that is very strong support for the microbial life theory that we have been promoting with evidence for a number of years.”
The new methane data, collected by NASA senior scientist Michael Mumma and other planetary scientists, found that concentrations of the gas varied greatly by location and season on Mars.
The primary plume they found contained about 19,000 metric tons of methane, which is comparable to the methane produced at the large hydrocarbon seep Coal Oil Point in California, where underwater bacteria produce methane by processing hydrocarbons.
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