Friday Fun: Life on Mars?

A NASA image of methane, not martians, on Mars.

A NASA image of methane, not martians, on Mars.

No, little green men have not been found on Mars and residents of West Windsor Township, N.J. have nothing to fear. But a team of NASA scientists have discovered something that could prove there is life on the red planet: methane.

The gas is a byproduct of biological and geological activity. On Earth, much of the methane in Earth’s atmosphere is released by organisms as they digest food. But geological processes, such iron oxidation, also release the gas.

NASA observations of the Martian atmosphere over the last several years have shown that methane is being continually released into the air there, but the scientists have not been able to determine the cause.

Here is what NASA’s Michael Mumma, the lead author of an upcoming paper on the findings, had to say:

Right now, we do not have enough information to tell whether biology or geology — or both — is producing the methane on Mars…But it does tell us the planet is still alive, at least in a geologic sense. It is as if Mars is challenging us, saying, ‘hey, find out what this means.’


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