Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mysterious Mars methane

Where does it come from.
(How does it last?)

Source: Space Pragmatism

Teachers and Franck Lefevre Francois Forget, University Pierret Marie Curie in Paris, used a computer model of the Martian atmosphere to apply the observations made previously by a team from the Goddard center of the NASA Astrobiology U.S.. Last January, U.S. scientists confirmed in the journal “Science” the existence of methane in the atmosphere of Mars, which, they said, is proof that this planet remains active, biologically or geologically.

Spectrometers for NASA telescopes in Hawaii detected in 2003 on the surface at least three stelae of this gas, which is a key to life as known on Earth. They noted that “the atmosphere of Mars quickly destroys methane in various ways,” which suggests that there must be a process issue, as explained by Michael Mumma, of the Space Flight Center of NASA in Maryland.

In the study published today, the French experts noted the difficulty of identifying patterns of behavior of gas in the red planet using the current atmospheric chemistry or physics that applies to terrestrial processes.

Methane has photochemical cycle of several centuries, it is expected to have a uniform distribution on the planet.

However, the observations on Mars indicate that the gas presents spatial and temporal variations (depending on the season). “It happens something else, something that lowers the life cycle of methane by a factor of 600. If the measurements are correct, we are missing something important,” Lefevre said in a statement by the British public channel BBC.

If these changes are confirmed, would imply that the gas is destroyed very quickly, which would suggest that the planet is in a very difficult environment for the survival of organic components.

Methane, whose molecule consists of one carbon atom attached to four hydrogen (CH4) is the main component of natural gas on Earth, and is also involved in other geological processes such as the oxidation of iron.

Moreover, many living organisms on Earth emit gas during the process of digestion of nutrients. Scientists currently unknown whether the methane on Mars is the product of biological or geological processes such as volcanic activity.

No comments: