Curiosity rover may be ‘burping’ methane out of Mars’ subsurface

Curiosity rover may be ‘burping’ methane out of Mars’ subsurface
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Curiosity Rover May Be ‘Burping’ Methane out of Mars’ Subsurface

The Curiosity rover, which has been exploring Mars since 2012, has uncovered intriguing evidence that suggests the Red Planet may be emitting methane gas from its subsurface. Methane is a key indicator of biological activity, as it can be produced by microbes known as methanogens. The presence of methane on Mars has sparked intense debate among scientists, with some suggesting that it may be a sign of life on the planet.

Evidence from Curiosity Rover

Curiosity has detected intermittent spikes of methane in the Martian atmosphere, with levels ranging from 0.3 to 0.6 parts per billion by volume (ppbv). These spikes have been puzzling scientists, as methane is a relatively short-lived gas that should dissipate quickly in the thin Martian atmosphere. One possible explanation for these detections is that methane is being released from beneath the surface of Mars.

Sample Analysis

One key piece of evidence comes from samples collected by Curiosity at the Gale Crater, where the rover has been exploring. Analysis of these samples has revealed organic molecules, including complex hydrocarbons such as thiophenes and benzene. While these molecules do not prove the presence of life, they do suggest that Mars may have the building blocks necessary for life to exist.

Possible Sources of Methane

There are several possible sources of methane on Mars, including geological processes such as serpentinization and volcanic activity. Serpentinization occurs when water reacts with certain minerals in the Martian crust, producing methane as a byproduct. Volcanic activity, on the other hand, can release methane stored in the subsurface of Mars.

  • Serpentinization: This process may be occurring on Mars, as indicated by the presence of minerals such as olivine in the Martian rocks. These minerals can react with water to produce methane, which could explain the intermittent spikes detected by Curiosity.
  • Volcanic Activity: Mars is a geologically active planet, with evidence of past volcanic eruptions. It is possible that volcanic activity is still occurring underground, releasing methane stored in the subsurface rocks.

Implications for Life on Mars

The detection of methane on Mars has significant implications for the search for life on the Red Planet. Methane is considered a biologically significant gas, as it can be produced by microbial life forms known as methanogens. If methane is indeed being emitted from the subsurface of Mars, it raises the tantalizing possibility that microbial life may exist on the planet.

Possible Methanogens

On Earth, methanogens are found in a variety of environments, from deep-sea hydrothermal vents to the digestive tracts of animals. These microbes are capable of producing methane as a byproduct of their metabolic processes, and they could potentially survive in the harsh conditions of Mars.


The discovery of methane on Mars by the Curiosity rover has opened up new possibilities for the search for life on the Red Planet. While the exact source of the methane remains uncertain, the evidence suggests that it may be coming from the subsurface of Mars. Further exploration and analysis will be needed to uncover the true origins of the methane and to determine if it is indeed a sign of life on Mars.

Curiosity rover could possibly be releasing methane from below the surface of Mars
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