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Martian Methane May Be Created By Lifeforms

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the little-green-bugs dept.

Mars 297

Following our recent discussions about the growing evidence pointing to possible life on Mars, reader skywatcher2501 writes with news of a study that has ruled out one possible explanation for the levels of methane seen on that planet — that it might be replenished by disintegrating meteors entering the atmosphere. So two theories remain: either the gas is created as a by-product of reactions between volcanic rock and water, or it is a by-product of a lifeform's metabolism.

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297 comments

This must mean... (3, Funny)

gregarican (694358) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370112)

that Martians need some beano eh? Also, first post BTW...

Re:This must mean... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370500)

If you are going to insist on posting first, learn English.

Re:This must mean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370520)

If you are going to insist on posting first, learn English.

Looks like decent English to me; with which part did you have the problem?

Re:This must mean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370578)

You obviously don't know what Beano is do you?

Even more compelling (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370116)

Methane concentrations peak in an area on the planet opposite the famous face on mars.

Re:Even more compelling (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370562)

There is a definite pattern to these press releases. If they already know something and want to very slowly let the public in on it, it would look exactly like this. Water on the moon, methan on Mars, etc. Instead of slowly acclimating the public to the idea of extraterrestrial life via all these little baby steps, why don't they just tell us what they know? Obviously there's no civilizations on Mars or the moon so we are talking about microscopic life-forms here. Are they afraid there's going to be rioting in the streets if they tell the public that they believe there is microbial life on Mars? How silly. For once I wish this government would treat us like adults. Adults would respond to such a prospect with fascination, not fear.

Re:Even more compelling (3, Insightful)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370604)

I wonder if the pattern to the press releases has anything to do with the pace at which scientific research takes place?

Re:Even more compelling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370606)

Yet another the theory to support the fact that, mens are from mars and women are from venus!

crap (3, Funny)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370138)

Now the ecozealots will decry our spoiling of the natural martial environment, and will protest any attempt at colonization or terraformation as the destruction of a precious natural world.

Re:crap (5, Insightful)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370292)

Well from a purely scientific standpoint I'd say there's merit in preserving and studying life forms that have evolved in complete isolation from anything on Earth.

Wouldn't you?

Or did they? (4, Insightful)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370402)

I saw recently that NASA was leaning towards judging structures on a few meteorites as organic in nature. Meaning, we could have been derived from, or seeded life on Mars. Multiple times.

Re:Or did they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370684)

Or perhaps both planets were seeded with life from yet another source.

Re:Or did they? (1)

Salamander_Pete (1377479) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370800)

Organic does not mean life. Organic means chemistry based on carbon chains, which may or may not be part of a living system. Common misconception.

Yes, they did (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370808)

Parent poster wasn't really talking about abiogenesis but evolution (perhaps he used too strong words, "complete isolation")

Even if there was some exchange of material at the beginning, any lifeforms that subsequently conquered any of the two planets would be evolving in isolation.

Re:crap and tax (0, Troll)

EraserMouseMan (847479) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370694)

Absolutely. They could teach us a lot. They would probably tell us that their planet did adopt the Martian Climate Summit resolution. But unfortunately the mammal's flatulent emissions were not taxed at a high enough rate to cancel out the anal footprint. A heavier tax burden would have surely enabled them to control their atmosphere's methane pollution.

Re:crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370444)

Protest away! I'm sure we can find a large rock up there that they can chain themselves to...

I do hope... (4, Insightful)

Dartz-IRL (1640117) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370148)

That it is life. I've said it before so I won't reiterate with a long post, but if there's life on Mars, that proves life isn't just unique to Earth. This planet isn't a fluke. If there's life on Mars, then it can be *anywhere*

What an amazing thing that would be.

Almost as good as the BBC TV series...

If that happens ... (4, Insightful)

abbynormal brain (1637419) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370240)

... get ready to hear this word a lot: "cross contamination" from the bombardment period.

I know - I know. I'm not advocating it - I'm just saying: Don't be surprised.

Re:If that happens ... (1)

pluther (647209) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370646)

It's quite possible.
If there is life on Mars as well as Earth, that would be a reasonable explanation of how.

However, it doesn't change the fact that if it's there, it could be *everywhere*. Cross-bombardment works everywhere else just as well as between Mars and Earth.

If we do find it, the next step of course is to go there and analyze it. Is it related to us? How far back? Does it even use DNA? What kind of ecosystem can exist in the conditions it's living in?

Of course, the first step is still to determine that it's actually *there*.

Re:I do hope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370248)

Unless it's human-level intelligent life, religious people will rationalize it: "Well only _Earth_ has _intelligent_ life in the Universe!"

Re:I do hope... (2, Funny)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370326)

The most compelling evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe, is that they have not attempted to contact us.

Re:I do hope... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370632)

The most compelling evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe, is that they have not attempted to contact us.

If you're so stupid and life has no meaning just fucking commit suicide now and make more room for me DAMNIT

Re:I do hope... (1)

ramsejc (671676) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370664)

...intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe...

It's interesting to me that you (and apparently others) believe that just because we have found something on Mars that farts, it must be intelligent. You have obviously not met any of my uncles. Not that any of them have ever been to Mars, but they do meet your other requirement for intelligence quite frequently. And most of them prefer to demonstrate their 'intelligence' in public if possible.

In your IQ tests, are those who can successfully execute a 'pull my finger' joke classified as genius?

[Sarcasm generation machine breaks down from being overworked.]

What do you people require from a life-form before you consider it to be intelligent? Farting is not very high on my list. I'd say it's not even on my list, but it does at least imply that something is digesting something, so there is some degree of intelligence there, but I'd have to rate it very very low.

Re:I do hope... (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370742)

The most compelling evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe, is that they have not attempted to contact us.

That reminds me of the movie Aliens.

Ripley: "You know, Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage."

Of course I think what would really deter intelligent life from contacting us is the fact that we have had the capability of feeding, clothing, sheltering, and educating every last man, woman, and child on the planet since the Industrial Age and, for various reasons, have not done so. We also kill our own species more than any other creature on the planet and treat each other like dehumanized cogs-in-machines for the sake of our economic models (see what Erich Fromm had to say about alienation). We not only experience lies, manipulation, and other forms of treachery from our leaders and authorities, we expect it and accept it as normal.

By the standards of a truly advanced interstellar civilization, we must be quite barbaric indeed. They would be wise to stay away from us, because if they are benevolent, then any interaction with us would likely be to their detriment.

Re:I do hope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370542)

Unless it's human-level intelligent life, religious people will rationalize it: "Well only _Earth_ has _intelligent_ life in the Universe!"

In such a case I would deny the latter claim ...

Re:I do hope... (1)

lattyware (934246) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370312)

I loved that series. Then I watched the American version, the ending to that was truly, truly horrible.

Re:I do hope... (0, Offtopic)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370462)

This is like the fifth post on this article that has done the thing where a sentence starts in the title and finishes in the comment. Does anyone else think that's odd?

Re:I do hope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370508)

Thank you! It's extremely annoying. It's even worse than the illiterate morons that write several sentence fragments separated by many periods.

Re:I do hope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370566)

What's the problem. With sentence fragments. Separated by periods?

You think. Maybe that they should. Be separated. By semicolons?

Re:I do hope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370638)

it's worse... lately I see... a lot of people....written line after line....of comments....like this one....no capitalization..no punctuation.....no even a consensus......on...how many periods..to use

Re:I do hope... (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370642)

What's the problem. With sentence fragments. Separated by periods?
You think. Maybe that they should. Be separated. By semicolons? </WilliamShatnerJazz>

Fixed that for you.

Re:I do hope... (2, Interesting)

blincoln (592401) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370490)

Almost as good as the BBC TV series...

A little off on a tangent, but I was just watching another BBC series (Planet Earth - I know, I'm a little late to that party), and there are numerous extremophiles covered in it. I knew about some of them already, but I was particularly surprised at the bacteria and animals that live in naturally-occurring sulfuric acid.
I'd been doing a little reading about bacteria that live off of the sulfur cycle (as opposed to the carbon cycle) already because my multispectral photos of the hotsprings at Yellowstone [beneaththewaves.net] reminded me of NASA's imagery of Io and I wanted to see if it were even possible that there was more than a superficial similarity at work, but I had no idea there were larger life forms (e.g. fish) that make that sort of environment their home.
Life seems to have found a way to thrive in every possible bizarre environment here on Earth. I suspect that except for planets and moons that are incredibly isolated in some way, we'll find at least microorganisms on many of them. Of course, actually confirming that would be mind-bogglingly-important news, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Re:I do hope... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370790)

Well perhaps... Perhaps Life is still unique in the universe. However some bacteria which came from mars went in spore form to earth and found it was a good place to grow, or the other way around. We could find life within our solar system. But that is it.

Questions: (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370160)

...that would have to be a lot of life, no? Or would the gas have been created by long-dead/extinct lifeforms, and the gas is just that stable in the atmosphere?

Also, titan is almost literally drowned in Methane (as in, lakes and oceans of the stuff). There ain't that many meteors floating around for that volume, and there's no volcanic activity to speak of, IIRC.

Re:Questions: (5, Informative)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370202)

The problem is that on mars all methane should vanish in months due to oxidizing soil. Therefore something must be replenishing it.

Re:Questions: (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370602)

The problem is that on mars all methane should vanish in months due to oxidizing soil. Therefore something must be replenishing it.

Its a more complicated problem than that. First of all, there is no viable explanation for a source, assuming no lifeforms on mars, no active volcanoes, not enough meteors... Secondly, methane is localized and produced at weird rates, almost like weather... errr growing seasons... Third, methane is photochemically unstable in UV, it should all disappear in a couple centuries, except it is measured as disappearing much more quickly, VERY coincidentally about the timeframe of one martian year, so grasping at straws, it must be "oxidizing soil" or something. Fourthly the ESA guys claim when they detect methane, it also coincidentally comes along with yummy water vapor (actually, probably fizzy carbonated water crossed with stinky swamp gas)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Mars#Methane [wikipedia.org]

Now it is refreshing after the quack climatologists basically making stuff up to "prove" their hypothesis, to see that real scientists studying mars are very carefully and appropriately skeptical about declaring martian life. But eventually Occams Razor kicks in and the complicated non-life workarounds become more ridiculous than admitting it makes more sense to assume there's life on mars. I think that tipping point is extremely close.

Re:Questions: (1)

josteos (455905) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370634)

Probably exhaust from the near-endless supply of methane-powered probes we keep sending there.

Underground methane leaking? (4, Interesting)

Glock27 (446276) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370178)

Another possible explanation might be ancient underground methane deposits leaking into the Martian atmosphere...if this has been ruled out, how?

It seems possible that life existed in the distant past on Mars, leaving behind methane deposits much like oil and natural gas deposits here on Earth...

Re:Underground methane leaking? (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370580)

If life had existed for long enough and in a large enough population to create the necessary carbon stores for these hypothetical reservoirs, it would probably still be present in some form.

Re:Underground methane leaking? (4, Informative)

mycroft822 (822167) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370728)

There are recent studies showing it may be possible that some of our methane on Earth is being created by the high pressure/temp conditions in the earth's mantle, rather than exclusively by the decay of organic matter. A written article [newenergyandfuel.com] on this, or an NPR segment [sciencefriday.com] (about 1/3 of the way into the audio file).

Re:Underground methane leaking? (3, Insightful)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370752)

Possible, but unlikely. Mars tectonics had stopped a loooong time ago.

And without plate tectonics it's pretty hard to imagine how geologic traps for organic material could have formed.

Re:Underground methane leaking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370774)

First off, to have appreciable quantities of methane left, there must have been marshes or rainforests or similar concentrations of biomatter all being subsumed at once. Such concentrations would have left other hints, and would likely mean that extremophile bacteria still exist. Secondly, past life on mars (of sufficient quantity to study) would be just as meaningful as present life on mars.

And the cow goes (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370182)

Pffffllltttt!!

Quick! We need some fundings! (3, Funny)

quangdog (1002624) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370198)

This spells disaster in the form of global climate change on mars! Who wants to be the first to martian up and buy some methane offsets?

Re:Quick! We need some fundings! (2, Interesting)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370456)

Carbon offsets are for Methane too as Methane is C(H4)...

Re:Quick! We need some fundings! (2, Interesting)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370564)

The latest issue of WorldWatch magazine had an interesting piece on the contribution of methane to AGW ... the general conclusion was that convincing humans to alter their diet (less/no meat) will have more impact than convincing them to alter their driving habits.

Re:Quick! We need some fundings! (2, Interesting)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370656)

Obviously the solution is to genetically engineer the bacteria in ruminant stomachs to produce no methane....

Once again ... (1)

abbynormal brain (1637419) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370206)

... we're missing critical information in the report. The keep mentioning "levels of methane" but they don't tell us what these levels are - and more importantly, how much bio mass would be required to create those levels. They also don't mention if it's saturated in certain areas (like around live volcanoes).

Re:Once again ... (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370478)

far below the 100 to 300 tonnes required to replenish methane levels in the Martian atmosphere. It appears TFA does mention how much methane needs to be released annually to replenish the methane levels in the Martian atmosphere.

Re:Once again ... (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370482)

... we're missing critical information in the report. The keep mentioning "levels of methane" but they don't tell us what these levels are

The usual [wikipedia.org] sources quote about 10 parts per billion of Methane in the atmosphere. Michael Mumma of Goddard Space Flight Center, with earthbound telescopes, says he's detected [spacedaily.com] up to 200 parts per billion near the equator. Recent observations suggest that the methane is released in plumes, one of which released about 19,000 metric tons [nasa.gov] of methane [space.com [space.com]].

Re:Once again ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370610)

There have been no live volcanoes on Mars for a couple billion years. If methane concentrations are found around old extinct volcanoes it would have to be caused by something else.

Is it possible? (1)

tibman (623933) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370214)

Could it be possible that there was life on mars... and not any more? Those long dead critters are continuing to decay and release the gas.

Re:Is it possible? (4, Interesting)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370376)

Yes and I think it is also theoretically possible that there was life on mars until about half an hour after the first probe landed.

Re:Is it possible? (1)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370436)

Life on Mars would have been at its prime billions of years ago. Whatever is left now would have to be either fossilised and completely inert, or still reproducing.

Re:Is it possible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370552)

Did something major happened to the environment there? Suddenly burying large regions of the original surface? And anything living there? Something like an asteroid impact? Volcanic activity? Hellas Planitia? Large methane and other deposits under kilometres of debris? Trapped underground would there be enough rising up to create the detected amounts? Is there MORE THAN ONE potential source, or a question of a primary source? Maybe.

Re:Is it possible? (5, Insightful)

Orleron (835910) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370676)

"Decay" implies the breakdown of biological tissue by... you guessed it, micro-organisms. In places where there is not much bacteria, like the antarctic, things that die do not decay noticeably over hundreds of years or more.
So, I doubt decay from dead things is producing the methane.

Re:Is it possible? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370714)

Could it be possible that there was life on mars... and not any more? Those long dead critters are continuing to decay and release the gas.

Coal, Oil wells, and NatGas wells are basically the same thing. If those deposits existed on mars, King Bush II and Haliburton would have been invading Mars for Oil rather than mostly innocent middle eastern countries for Oil. Therefore, theres no hydrocarbon fields on Mars. So, if the methane isn't from fossils, its from modern/current critters...

Methane is unstable on the order of centuries in the martian atmosphere, so they all died off VERY recently, not so "long dead" as you might think.

Re:Is it possible? (1)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370768)

Actually, decay is caused by living microbes breaking down the organic matter (and releasing methane). No life means no decay (in the metabolizing sense). Dead organic matter with nothing to cause decay would likely dry up and turn to dust or become fossilized.

option C (5, Insightful)

kingmundi (54911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370224)

"So two theories remain: either the gas is created as a by-product of reactions between volcanic rock and water, or it is a by-product of a lifeform's metabolism."

Or C: There is some, as of yet, unidentified method of methane production.

Re:option C (1)

badness (78200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370366)

But that would be three options, and the FA clearly states that there are only two plausible theories.

Re:option C (1)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370530)

Undefined methods aren't "theories" you smartass.

Re:option C (1)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370668)

Undefined methods aren't "theories" you smartass.

Well, not yet they aren't. But I assume once the methods become identified (or "defined") they will spawn new theories.

The phrase "So two theories remain" strongly implies that these are the only two possible causes, when really there are probably others.

Re:option C (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370616)

You should patent that idea... it seems broad enough.

Re:option C (1)

Princeofcups (150855) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370666)

"So two theories remain: either the gas is created as a by-product of reactions between volcanic rock and water, or it is a by-product of a lifeform's metabolism."

Or C: There is some, as of yet, unidentified method of methane production.

That's not a theory, it's a catch all.

Re:option C (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370712)

And Occam's Razor suggests the former. That about ends it for the 'life on Mars' crew. Get back to work.

lifeforms, lifeforms, precious little lifeforms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370280)

where are you?

Really? (1)

Drasham (1626825) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370284)

From the article:

Either there are microorganisms living in the Martian soil that are producing methane gas as a by-product of their metabolic processes, or methane is being produced as a by-product of reactions between volcanic rock and water.

I think that it would be really exciting to find the first possibility true, and there's ample precedent for it here on earth.

Re:Really? (2, Funny)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370412)

there are microorganisms living in the Martian soil that are producing methane gas as a by-product of their metabolic processes

Finally, someone that slashdotters can relate to!

Damn bleching Martian microbes. (0, Troll)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370358)

They are farting methane and causing Martian Warming!!!!!!

I say we put a carbon tax on them, maybe after not collecting any monies from them for a few decades, the U.N. will get serious about sending someone to Mars, even if it is only to send someone with a sternly worded letter....

"The Doctor" Told me.... (0, Offtopic)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370404)

You can go to Mars, but don't drink the water, because water always wins.....

I wonder if you breathed in Martian Methane if you would become a fart monster who wanted to invade Titan or something.......

Re:"The Doctor" Told me.... (1)

Zordak (123132) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370586)

-1, Hasn't Aired In US Yet.

Re:"The Doctor" Told me.... (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370688)

Cry me a river!!!

I didn't mean literally.....

Wait, are you one of them..... Stay away from me, water is pouring out of you, you are infected.......

Overlords (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370410)

I, for one, welcome our new flatulent Martian overlords.

Mars is where the Bugalo Roam... (0, Offtopic)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370438)

The Methane is being caused by the Bugalo who eat martian sagebrush and fart methane. I say we go there and start ranching them, maybe buy the whole planet using a giant diamond as payment or something. Of course China will beat us to the punch and we will have gone the Wong way.....

Or it could be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370440)

the byproduct of an invasion force from Alpha Centauri building up under the Martian landscape. They'll land on earth and take our women for sure. Then we'll be doomed. Who wants to look at the hairy guys?

I for one.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370538)

...welcome our new flatulent Martian overlords.

Just ask the USS Reliant to stop by (2, Funny)

Knara (9377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370546)

Who knows, it could just be a piece of pre-animate matter caught in the matrix.

Does make you wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370592)

Would they be looking at earth through telescopes of a kind unknown (and unrecognisable) to us thinking "yeah, that might be a nice planet to colonize, but it's so hot and the atmosphere is full with volatile oxygen, can't imagine anything surviving there."?

Re:Does make you wonder... (0, Offtopic)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370704)

Life on Earth, bah, that is just wishful thinking......

Real life can only be sustained in a tenious atmosphere filled with CO2 and plenty of ultraviolet light to supply energy.....

Trespassing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30370594)

Does this mean our rovers are trespassing on Mars?

Re:Trespassing? (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370722)

They will be Exterminated...

Exter-mi-nate...Exter-mi-nate...Exter-mi-nate...Exter-mi-nate...Exter-mi-nate...

Another Proposed Answer: Olivine and Hydrothermal (1)

gpronger (1142181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370710)

Back in March, there was an article in "Nature News" [nature.com](the Nature News article is subscription, but a decent summary was posted by "The Free Republic" [209.157.64.200]) that the mineral Olivine when incorporated in a hydrothermal system may generate methane.

On Earth, the predominate source of methane is considered biological in origin, and the presence on Mars has been considered a possible indication of life on Mars. Recently, at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference at The Woodlands, near Houston, Texas, researcher Bethany Ehlmann (a PhD student at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island) proposed a geological process could be a potential source for methane. The article reports that under a hydrothermal process the mineral olivine can undergo conversion to serpentine, with methane and hydrogen as a by-product.

Not surprisingly, there are potential problems with the theory. Though the presence of the mineral could have been a source of methane, the surface mineral is ancient, 3.8BY. Too old to be the source of the methane currently detected. It may be though, that the conversion is active subsurface, and the generated methane reaches the surface via fissures, etc."

Cows (4, Funny)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370724)

Cows ruined their own planet before they came to earth millenia ago.
Its this migration that the child's nursery rhyme is referencing in the line "the cow jumped over the moon".
They're now doing the same to the earth.

don't really understand the point (2, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30370766)

As I understand it, we know there's olivine on Mars [hawaii.edu] and that there's water on Mars [timesonline.co.uk]. Assuming the laws of physics operate the same on Mars as on Earth, then you have all the explanation you need for methane on Mars. Serpentinization [wikipedia.org] is the process of reacting olivine with water. It generates methane as a byproduct.

The question isn't whether serpentinization is a source of methane, but rather whether it is the majority source or not. My take is that if the methane production was due to life on Mars, there'd be a lot more methane being produced than a few hundred tons a day. I don't see life on Mars staying in one place over millions much less hundreds of millions of years. But I suppose there's a chance it could happen that way (say if life on Mars is a relatively recent phenoma).
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