Cerca nel blog


BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Martian gases pose life question

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Martian gases pose life question

Vittorio Formisano told a Dutch space conference methane and formaldehyde could signify biological activity...only soil analysis on the planet could prove it... The researcher is principal investigator on the Mars Express Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS). The instrument... was able to confirm the presence in the Martian "air" last March of small quantities of methane.

The ... gas is short-lived; ... volcanic processes may be producing the gas, although active signs of this have yet to be observed. There may also be large reserves in the Martian soil of ancient methane-ice, so-called clathrates, which are slowly melting.

He said that if the methane was considered in isolation, it appeared too small a source to be biogenic in origin... However, he argued, if the formaldehyde detected in the atmosphere was viewed as a byproduct of the oxidation of methane, it would imply much more methane was being produced each year - and this could be explained by life more easily.

PFS data shows that the highest concentrations of methane overlap with the areas where water vapour and underground water-ice are also concentrated. One of these areas includes the equatorial Elysium region, where Mars Express scientists think they may have seen pack ice covered by a thin "lag" of dust and volcanic ash.

Some researchers point out that the area of the spectrum in which formaldehyde appears in the PFS data coincides with an area of significant interference from solar radiation.