Martian methane hints towards presence of a warm, wet, chemically reactive environment where life could thrive

A latest study by group of International scientists revealed that they have discovered traces of Methane in the meteorites of Mars.

Basically the research team studied samples from six meteorites of volcanic rocks of Martian origin.

Further, when researchers crushed the samples they could detect some gas emerging from these rocks which they made to pass through mass spectrometer and discovered it to be Methane gas.

The study revealed that these meteorites contained gases which had same isotopic composition and were more or less of same proportion as that of Martian atmosphere.

Simultaneously two non Martian meteorites were also examined and the team found that the amount of methane in these samples were much less.

Discovery of methane in the meteorites of Mars thus sparks the possibility of rudimentary forms of life on the Red planet. The research team explained that on Earth, microbes thrive on methane and this is their major source of food, which has been noticed in a range of environments. The presence of methane on Martian surface could be an indication that some form of life might be existing beneath the surface of Mars which is using this gas for its survival.

Sean McMahon, a Yale University postdoctoral associate in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, and a co-author of the research mentioned in a statement: “Other researchers will be keen to replicate these findings using alternative measurement tools and techniques.”

McMahon also mentioned: “Our findings will likely be used by astrobiologists in models and experiments aimed at understanding whether life could survive below the surface of Mars today.”

This research study was a joint project led by the University of Aberdeen in Britain and it was done in collaboration with the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, the University of Glasgow, Brock University in Ontario, and the University of Western Ontario.

John Parnell, a professor at University of Aberdeen and who directed the research said: “One of the most exciting developments in the exploration of Mars has been the suggestion of methane in the Martian atmosphere.”

Parnell further added: “Recent and forthcoming missions by NASA and the European Space Agency, respectively, are looking at this, however, it is so far unclear where the methane comes from, and even whether it is really there. However, our research provides a strong indication that rocks on Mars contain a large reservoir of methane.”

McMahon thus concluded that: “Even if Martian methane does not directly feed microbes, it may signal the presence of a warm, wet, chemically reactive environment where life could thrive.”

Ultimately McMahon pointed out that this approach by the entire research team may prove to be very much useful for the future exploration of Mars.

The spaces probes which had explored Mars earlier too have revealed the presence of methane on the Martian surface. The study conducted by European Space Agency’s Mars Express had sniffed methane in Martian atmosphere way back in 2014. India’s Mangalyaan, (MOM) Mars Orbiter Mission which is exploring Mars may too find out the presence of methane in the Martian atmosphere.

Details of this discovery has been published in the journal Nature Communications.