Anonymous asked in Science & MathematicsAstronomy & Space · 6 months ago

What does "Curiosity detects unusually high methane levels" mean?

Life on Mars?

What is "unusually high"?


What is the significance of it?

11 Answers

  • 6 months ago

    Higher than none

    Yes, there has to be something producing it

    Source(s): I was going to give an example there but it would have probably got a Violation for being rude
  • Tom
    Lv 7
    6 months ago

    Suggests that life may be present as Methane is usually produced by living organisms---

  • 6 months ago

    It means that geological processes have released some methane in an area where the curiosity rover has arrived. Nothing strange about that. Since carbon and hydrogen are two of the most common elements in the solar system, and worlds such as Neptune have heaps of the stuff, it is not at all surprising to find some elsewhere in space.

    The really strange thing is how people twist anything without a current explanation into some sort of evidence to support their weird fantasies. Echoes of the "canals on Mars" fiasco and the "Face on Mars" hoax here.

  • Anonymous
    6 months ago

    Probably not. There are methane oceans on Europa.

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  • 6 months ago

    The rover is sensitive enough to detect even the slightest concentrations of methane. These are very minuscule spikes, but the hopes are in detecting the possible presence of fossil fuels or even some evidence of life.

    Oil deposits here on earth produce methane we harvest for natural gas, and animal digestion produces some methane. Decaying biologic will produce some level of methane.

    On mars, this really means little, possibly geological decay, but an anomaly that may warrant further research.

  • 6 months ago

    "unusually high" in this case was a few tens of ppb (low concentrations in the parts per billion range) according to the article I read a few minutes ago. For comparison, methane is at about 1 ppm (1000 ppb) on earth. Normally on Mars, methane is down at the few ppb concentration, so these spikes aren't even a tenfold or hundredfold jump. Just a quick period where methane is at levels a few times above normal, so not a big deal in terms of main processes, but unusual just in terms of how methane behaves there.

    What does it mean? Well, it likely means that there has been a release of methane that was fixed into the soil in some way (some sort of solid probably) and conditions (likely temperature) caused some of that methane to become gas and leave the soil. The spikes appear to have a seasonal timing which is why temperature is a probable trigger of a release. One important thing is that the measurements have come from a rover, down on the surface of the planet, but the satellite instruments we have around Mars have not yet identified any such anomalies.

    Methane is fairly common when there is a lot of life (as we know it, carbon-based life made from organic molecules). However, methane is also a not-rare product of inorganic reactions on earth and elsewhere, and given the low concentrations and rareness of these "spikes", an inorganic origin is most likely the cause.

    We can't get enough of the proper measurements to say a lot about how the methane comes into existence. Parts per billion isn't a heck of a lot of methane, and the anomalies when they occur are fairly localized and of short time duration.

    Basically, what the methane comes from isn't known yet. It is rare enough that it is news even when these small whiffs of methane get detected. If it is from life activity, the obvious conclusion would have to be that there is very little active life on that planet, because we almost never detect methane, and when we do, there isn't a lot.

  • 6 months ago

    Methane can produced by geologic activity. Life does not have to be the source of methane, but methane CAN be produced by life.

  • sasha
    Lv 7
    6 months ago

    The average methane on Mars is around 10 parts per billion. Curiosity detected a spike of 21 parts per billion in Gale Crater.

    That doesn't mean life, but it means Mars is not a dead inactive world. Life could exist, that would be one cause of methane spikes.

  • Anonymous
    6 months ago

    It means that Uranus has bumped into Mars again.

    Looks like Jupiter was caught napping again. C'mon, Jupiter-I thought you had Mars' back?

  • 6 months ago

    It means that the equipment on the rover Curiosity has detected a higher level of methane than normally found by the same equipment at different times.

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