During recent observations from the ESA Mars Express spacecraft in orbit around Mars, methane was detected in its atmosphere.
The Mars Express spacecraft in orbit around Mars.
Credits: ESA 2001, Illustration by Medialab
Whilst it is too early to draw any conclusions on its origin, exciting as they may be, scientists are thinking about the next steps to take in order to understand more.
From the time of its arrival at Mars, the Mars Express spacecraft started producing stunning results. One of the aims of the mission is analysing in detail the chemical composition of the Martian atmosphere, known to consist of 95% percent carbon dioxide plus 5% of minor constituents. It is also from these minor constituents, which scientists expect to be oxygen, water, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and methane, that we may get important information on the evolution of the planet and possible implications for the presence of past or present life.
The presence of methane has been confirmed thanks to the observations of the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) on board Mars Express during the past few weeks. This instrument is able to detect the presence of particular molecules by analysing their “spectral fingerprints” - the specific way each molecule absorbs the sunlight it receives.
Roberto Lo Verde | ESA
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