ExoMars detects almost no methane on Mars in a surprise


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One of the keys to scanning the red planet for present or past life is understanding the molecules that form its thin atmosphere. Various missions have been discovered by methane on Mars, which is considered one of the signs of living organisms. The arrival of ExoMars with Trace Gas Orbiter (MET) enabled scientists to continue to perform the most accurate measurements of methane concentration. However, the first major release of data shows almost no gas in the atmosphere of Mars. This is an unexpected result.

The TGO is the orbital part of the ExoMars mission. It's the same just now part of the ExoMars mission. Unfortunately, the Russian Schiaparelli Lander did not manage to slow down with landing tugboats due to a defective sensor. He crashed into the Martian landscape, so he left the MET to the soldier.

Fortunately, MET is the most sensitive atmospheric tool ever sent to Mars. It has various infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers that can scan the atmosphere for trace gases. There is also a neutron detector for mapping water and hydrated minerals. Sitting in approximately circular orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Mars, inhaling the atmosphere and counting the molecules. The first data, which were prepared from April 2018 to August 2018, show virtually no methane on Mars – a maximum of 0.012 per billion (ppb). This is several times lower than what scientists expected from methane basic detectors on the Curiosity rover.

There are some possible explanations for this result. Curiosity and other ground instruments can be simply wrong with regard to methane concentration on Mars, perhaps due to short-term local jumps of methane concentration. Alternatively, methane levels are higher in the vicinity of the surface, but some processes destroy molecules before reaching the height where they can be detected by MET.

The ExoMars team supports the latest explanation, but the degradation process of methane should be about 1000 times faster than conventional chemistry to explain the discrepancy. The team proposed that methane be expanded into the Martian rock and earth or be chemically bound with eroded silica deposits.

This result does not necessarily mean that there is no evidence of life on Mars, but it is less likely that methane will show the way. The mission, like the upcoming Mars 2020 rover, still has a lot of traces.

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