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NASA Curiosity rover detects levels of Methane on Mars, hints at possibility of life

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 23 June 2019, 01:07 PM
Curiosity scientists developed a technique that enabled the rover to detect even tinier amounts of methane with its existing tools
Curiosity scientists developed a technique that enabled the rover to detect even tinier amounts of methane with its existing tools

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has discovered "startlingly high amounts of methane in the Martian air". This can be seen as a significant move for life on the Red Planet. The quantities are still tiny at 21 parts per billion, but that's three times the amount Curiosity spotted during a surge in 2013, according to the New York Times. The source of methane, however, isn't clear.

Due to output from living creatures Methane is often present in higher concentrations in the air on Earth. This is why scientists are working on more evidences to back up the theory that the gas is due to output from subterranean Martian microbes.

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According to the New York Times, “Curiosity scientists developed a technique that enabled the rover to detect even tinier amounts of methane with its existing tools. The gas seems to rise and fall with the red planet’s seasons. A new analysis of old Mars Express readings confirmed Curiosity’s 2013 findings. One day after Curiosity reported a spike of methane, the orbiter, passing over Curiosity’s location, also measured a spike.”

“But the Trace Gas Orbiter, a newer European spacecraft launched in 2016 with more sensitive instruments, did not detect any methane at all in its first batch of scientific observations last year,” the report added.

Curiosity rover has also released a photo that shows a mysterious, unexplained white light on Mars. The black-and-white raw image that was transmitted back to Earth was taken by the Curiosity rover's right “Navcam" (which acts as sort of an eye) on June 16, 2019 or Sol 2438. The Navcam snapped the picture at 09.24 am IST.

The rover has two Navcams and 17 cameras and it has been sending photographs continuously since it landed on the Red Planet in August 2012, nearly seven years ago.

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The image shows, a disc-shaped orb which is white in colour can be seen floating above the surface of Mars. However, experts revealed that the Curiosity Rover had captured similar illuminations in the past.

In December 2012, Curiosity's two-year mission was extended indefinitely, and on August 5, 2017, NASA celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Curiosity rover landing. The rover is still operational, and as of June 22, 2019, Curiosity has been on Mars for 2444 sols (2511 total days) since landing on August 6, 2012.

First Published: Sunday, June 23, 2019 01:07 PM
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