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Methane Survey Reveals Mars Is Far From 'Dead'

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the mars-has-a-secret-cow-level dept.

Mars 171

astroengine writes "The first planet-wide studies of methane on Mars — incorporating billions of measurements made by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft — shows gas concentrations peak in autumn and plummet in winter. Scientists have found significantly higher methane concentrations in the Tharsis, Elysium and Arabia Terrae regions. Tharsis and Elysium are home to Mars' most massive volcanoes and Arabia Terrae has large quantities of subterranean frozen water. This indicates the gas could be generated by geological or biological activity. 'It could be geology or biology, but it is not coming from another source. There is a seasonal pattern, so it could only be a local origin,' Sergio Fonti, with Italy's Universita del Salento, told Discovery News."

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fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714016)

fp

Re:fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714182)

I haven't seen an honest to goodness FP in weeks.
Well played sir

Good news (2, Insightful)

2names (531755) | about 4 years ago | (#33714038)

I'm glad they found this type of cyclic activity. The sooner we find complex life off-Earth the better.

Re:Good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714132)

I don't know about you but it sound to me the female lifeforms might be prone to digestion problems, not really into that...

Re:Good news (1)

VoiceInTheDesert (1613565) | about 4 years ago | (#33714230)

I was hoping for a Farnsworth joke :(

Re:Good news (1)

genner (694963) | about 4 years ago | (#33714300)

I was hoping for a Farnsworth joke :(

Good news everyone, an overused joke is finally dieing!

Re:Good news (2, Funny)

X0563511 (793323) | about 4 years ago | (#33714398)

That post was bad, and you should feel bad!

Re:Good news (1)

VoiceInTheDesert (1613565) | about 4 years ago | (#33714522)

You call that an ink defense? Blah!

Re:Good news (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 4 years ago | (#33714680)

Fry did it. Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop!

Re:Good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714686)

"dieing", lol.

Re:Good news (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 4 years ago | (#33714970)

I'm glad they found this type of cyclic activity. The sooner we find complex life off-Earth the better.

It's not obvious to me why it's good for us to find complex off-Earth life. Unless it's a technology advanced species that can help us with our problems, I don't see any benefit to finding complex off-Earth life at all. What am I missing?

Re:Good news (3, Insightful)

saider (177166) | about 4 years ago | (#33715048)

It would be another step back from the "we-are-the-sole-reason-for-the-universe's-existence" mindset. Reducing humanities self-centered leanings leaves some more room for a "we-are-a-part-of-the-universe" attitude that tends to promote a more responsible approach to resource management.

Re:Good news (1)

Mister Kay (1119377) | about 4 years ago | (#33715158)

Of course we're always going to have the "fucking magnets. how do they work?" crowd out there that believe scientists lie to them every day.

Re:Good news (2, Insightful)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 4 years ago | (#33715210)

It would be another step back from the "we-are-the-sole-reason-for-the-universe's-existence" mindset. Reducing humanities self-centered leanings leaves some more room for a "we-are-a-part-of-the-universe" attitude that tends to promote a more responsible approach to resource management.

I don't think that would have the impact your hoping for unless it was intelligent life that was more technologically advanced than us. Anything less would be treated just like Western civilization treated (and continues to treat) less advanced societies and life forms. "God made the universe for white guys who claim to be Christian," etc.

Re:Good news (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | about 4 years ago | (#33715782)

Biblically, God made at least earth for humans. Not "white guys who claim to be Christian."

Just wanted to clear that up. I know there are plenty of people who distort and malign it, and I know established 'Christian' religions, who looked nothing like 'little Christs', have perverted it immensely (dark ages, etc)...

(to make that distortion even worse and stupider, most of the Bible takes place in the "East," not the West. Heh.)

Re:Good news (2, Insightful)

Schemat1c (464768) | about 4 years ago | (#33715852)

It's not obvious to me why it's good for us to find complex off-Earth life. Unless it's a technology advanced species that can help us with our problems, I don't see any benefit to finding complex off-Earth life at all. What am I missing?

Hmm, here are a few reasons: The Vatican, Jerusalem, Mecca, the southern half of the United States, etc.

Re:Good news (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 4 years ago | (#33714984)

I'm glad they found this type of cyclic activity. The sooner we find complex life off-Earth the better.

Until you find out that the life is actually biological contaminants that hitched a ride on the Soviet Mars-2 probe. Here on Earth bacteria reproduce every 30 minutes or so (sometimes less) Imagine if the bacteria on Mars only reproduced at half that rate due to less than ideal conditions. 38 years, exponential growth rate.

Slow down their reproduction to just once an hour, you would have 2^333108 bacteria on Mars after 38 years.

Re:Good news (1)

slapout (93640) | about 4 years ago | (#33715826)

Why? What does "complex life off-Earth" imply?

alternate more likely explanation for teh methane (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714050)

Vlad Farted [slashdot.org]

OH COME ON (2, Interesting)

iONiUM (530420) | about 4 years ago | (#33714052)

Don't get me wrong, I like hearing about space updates. But it feels like there's been a ton of "there may be signs that may indicate signs of biological life from stuff we may or may not have overlooked before. Also? It might not be caused by a biological thing."

I want a "we found fucking life" article. Stop teasing me with this nonsense.

Re:OH COME ON (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714186)

Because dinosaur bones are just gods way of testing your faith, just like life on mars. They will say this and/or expand the scope of the jesus to the entire solar system. In all likely hood, religionX will be gone by the time we make contact with other intergalactic life, so it's a safe bet they can't be proven incorrect on that front.

Re:OH COME ON (1)

eleuthero (812560) | about 4 years ago | (#33714426)

Christians would seem to be your target religionX here and have not, as a group, rejected the idea of aliens. In fact, significant theologians among Protestants and Roman Catholics have both affirmed God's ability to do whatever He chooses to do. Roman Catholicism specifically finds no discord between evolutionary models of development and Christianity. Protestant groups are more varied and go from instantaneous creation of man on the sixth day to catastrophe/re-creation models to theistic evolution.

Throughout the history of both these and other branches of Christianity, the unknowability and extreme otherness of God has been promoted ("holiness" is the religious term here). The Christian claim is that for humans, God has sought to reveal himself through the Bible to the extent that humans can and should understand him. It makes no claim on how God would interact with other life throughout the universe (or whether or not there is life outside of earth).

Ahh, the great infallible jeebus (1)

apparently (756613) | about 4 years ago | (#33715650)

Find something that contradicts the creation story of the Bible? No problem! Those alleged contradictions are merely pieces of information that god purposely withheld, because he created us to be too stupid to understand simple concepts and had to resort to lies and misinformation.
What a guy!

The Christian claim is that for humans, God has sought to reveal himself through the Bible to the extent that humans can and should understand him.

Re:OH COME ON (5, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 years ago | (#33714204)

I think the unspoken belief in the scientific community is that it's pointing very heavily towards life on Mars, but the rule of thumb in science is "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", and claims don't get much more extraordinary than the claim that life has been found on another world. Necessity and prudence require that the experts couch their language and manage expectations until we can gather that extraordinary evidence. Since there are other ways that the methane could be formed, in particular geological activity (which in its own way is pretty extraordinary considering Mars' lack of a magnetic field has long been seen as a sign that it is a geologically dead world, lacking a molten or semi-molten core), until incontrovertible evidence has been gathered there will always be the need to list alternative explanations, no matter how much they piss on the parade.

Quite frankly we're not going to know until we find some Martian life, and that's going to take a good deal of time. We're decades away from being able to gather direct evidence, unless we get very lucky.

Re:OH COME ON (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 4 years ago | (#33714418)

I think probably the largest "thing" a Star Trek like real-life would have is not space travel, warp fields, transporters etc...

But sensors that can detect "life signs"

One can dream.

Re:OH COME ON (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 4 years ago | (#33714510)

Sensors that detect for life signs are available...if your looking for Earth based life forms. Unless there's some universal signs with all life in the universe, how do you know what to look for when by its very definition, life is alien?

Re:OH COME ON (3, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 years ago | (#33715548)

You start by not defining living systems as any specific type of chemistry, but rather certain activities; ie. metabolism, reproduction/replication, respiration, excretion. While the only systems we know of that do that from observation is carbon-based life on Earth, we can conceive of alternatives, whether simply using other forms of carbon chemistry, or even possible silicon-based life.

The risk, of course, of very generalized definitions is that you could catch chemical activity that isn't life, but I think the above tests would be close enough to be highly suggestive that the chemical interactions you're seeing are biotic in nature, regardless of the precise form the chemistry itself takes. I think we're sufficiently good enough of recognizing this things to not confuse even simply living systems with more mundane chemical processes like crystallization, oxidization, etc.

Re:OH COME ON (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33715138)

So, you are saying that the "life" they found is just some pre-animate matter caught in a matrix"? Go down and check it out, but don't be surprised if THIS IS CETI ALPHA 5!

Re:OH COME ON (3, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | about 4 years ago | (#33714470)

I think it's pretty certain that there is life on Mars now [spacedaily.com] , as NASA didn't take any extraordinary measures to eradicate all possible forms of life from the probes until 1995 and the Mars Orbiter. Earlier, a memo was issued [nih.gov] , but not much was done. Up to 10^5 possibly surviving microbes were permissible on the earlier crafts, if I remember correctly.

It's a shame, as the planet can never be uncontaminated and studied as a truly lifeless planet.

Re:OH COME ON (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 years ago | (#33714488)

If life is responsible for the seasonal methane fluctuations, I doubt very much that it could be explained by anything hitching a ride on our spacecraft.

Re:OH COME ON (4, Funny)

justthisdude (779510) | about 4 years ago | (#33715366)

Of course the episodic bursts of methane came form the global surveyor that surveyed the planet: as every middle schooler knows, "whoever smelt it dealt it".

Re:OH COME ON (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33715794)

It can't really be explained at all. Just suppose that there's a methanogenic form of life on Mars. The first question is where does it get its energy from? If it gets its energy from photosynthesis, then it has to sit on the surface of the planet and it would be pretty easy to detect spectroscopically (unless it is very sparse, in which case it can't produce that much methane). If it gets its energy from chemicals, then where are the chemicals coming from? Remember, Mars is supposed to be geologically dead.

Even if it is photosynthetic and we haven't detected it anyway, from where does it get the hydrogen to make the methane? Hydrogen is very scarce on Mars. You can't just throw it away. If it gets it from water, then what does it do with all the oxygen that's left over? On Earth, it's released into the atmosphere, but there is no evidence of oxygen in any kind of abundance in the Martian atmosphere.

Re:OH COME ON (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 4 years ago | (#33714850)

Even if all current life on Mars were there solely because of our probes I think it goes to show just how hardy life is. Not only did it survive the vacuum of space, but it's been able to not only survive a few decades on Mars but thrive. That being the case, it's rational to assume that we will find life elsewhere in the universe.

Re:OH COME ON (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about 4 years ago | (#33715090)

Truly lifeless planets are common. Planets other than earth with life are not. Even planets that have life but did not originate life locally are pretty rare as far as we can tell.

Re:OH COME ON (1)

jpapon (1877296) | about 4 years ago | (#33715218)

Well if that's the case, then the upside is that no matter what we do to our own species and planet, at least we succeeded in seeding life on a new planet.

Panspermia, or actually, exogenesis ftw!

Actually, I suppose this would be "homogenesis". Sweet!

Re:OH COME ON (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33715302)

You mean apart from launching the probes through the 2 atmospheres and the associated heat - having them float through a vacuum for months at absolute zero with no oxygen or food - and then crashing them into a planet from orbit? What kind of badass microbial life have you been dreaming up that ignores extreme heat, extreme cold, doesn't breathe anything, survives in a vacuum, and doesn't eat? ;p

Re:OH COME ON (2, Informative)

Smidge204 (605297) | about 4 years ago | (#33715676)

What kind of badass microbial life have you been dreaming up that ignores extreme heat, extreme cold, doesn't breathe anything, survives in a vacuum, and doesn't eat? ;p

Ignoring the factual errors in your description... Tardigrades [wikipedia.org] seem to fit those requirements quite nicely:

- Survive temperatures from -273C to +151C

- Survive decades without water

- Survive radiation doses thousands of times higher than what would kill other organisms

- Survive when exposed to the vacuum of space
=Smidge=

Re:OH COME ON (1)

Fuseboy (414663) | about 4 years ago | (#33715342)

Sometimes I think this whole notion of extraordinary has more to do with our imagination and cultural background than anything scientific. I mean, wouldn't it be absolutely mind-boggling if we kept encountering massive energy-rich zones (e.g. geologically/chemically active planets) that were completely devoid of microbial life? If/when we find life elsewhere, of course it's going to be extremely significant, but does that make it unlikely?

Re:OH COME ON (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 4 years ago | (#33715566)

Quite frankly we're not going to know until we find some Martian life, and that's going to take a good deal of time. We're decades away from being able to gather direct evidence, unless we get very lucky.

First we'd need to figure out where to look for them in the first place. Just speculating here but if there were subterranean pockets of liquid water and the methane is bubbling up through porous rock into the atmosphere, getting down there to find proof would be very, very difficult. But if it's lichen clinging to rocks and we just weren't looking in the right spot, that would be easier to find.

Re:OH COME ON (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 years ago | (#33715888)

We can make educated guesses. The surface of Mars, even disregarding low temperatures, is very hostile, with little atmosphere and no magnetic field, it receives a lot more harmful radiation than the surface of Earth does. That radiation makes life on the surface less probable, though maybe not impossible, but it seems more likely that you would find life beneath the surface.

It's all guesswork, of course, but it's quite possible that extant life on Mars may have long ago migrated deep below the surface, which makes direct detection very difficult, at least with any probe we plan on sending out there. Building robots capable of drilling many meters beneath the surface, while not impossible, is certainly a good deal more difficult than sending something out with a few sanding wheels, drills and blowtorches.

At some point we will have to, and testing things like this out on Mars, where the scales would be smaller than, say, the kind of drilling probe you would send to Europa or Callisto to pierce the presumed kilometers thick ice crusts, seems an ideal thing to do. Even a manned mission is going to require some pretty sophisticated hardware for any big drilling operation, just look at how far technology has had to advance before we could drill in a big way beneath the Antarctic ice sheets.

My only hope at this time is that we can confirm life on Mars in my lifetime. I don't even feel like I have to see humans go there, just as long as we can get a picture of a Martian organism and some idea of the biochemistry before I croak.

Re:OH COME ON (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33715896)

I think the unspoken belief in the scientific community is that it's pointing very heavily towards life on Mars

Doubtful. Until they rule out serpentinitization processes [wikipedia.org] , there's a simpler explanation than "life did it".

Re:OH COME ON (1)

digitalsushi (137809) | about 4 years ago | (#33714206)

The announcement you seek may not be framed in time with the boundaries of yours, or any our our lives. It's not a Hollywood theatrical preview with a release date known by studio executives. It's science, and perhaps one day that answer may come, or never. And it may come in an answer you do not desire.

There's no cat that we know of waiting to be released from its proverbial bag.

Re:OH COME ON (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714808)

There's no cat that we know of waiting to be released from its proverbial bag.

I agree completely. If there were cats involved in an expedition to find life on mars then we would benefit greatly. If we want man to colonize Mars then it seems logical that we should begin with a space pussy program. Perhaps we could call it the First Underground Colonization by Kitties program. Doesn't that sound like something people would really get behind?

Re:OH COME ON (1)

confused one (671304) | about 4 years ago | (#33714226)

We can give you the definitive "we found fucking life" article once we have boots on the ground. Until then it will be "we have evidence there may be life". Even the new rover (which is soon to launch) might not produce a definitive answer, unless they get lucky...

Re:OH COME ON (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714262)

Since people are willing to read the teases, the media will gladly keep offering them up.

What's interesting to me is how the exploration of Mars has been framed as an attempt to prove a negative - any measurement which cannot be proven to be non-biological is offered as possible evidence of biological activity. It basically guarantees that the search for life can continue in perpetuity whether or not there is any there.

Re:OH COME ON (1)

Beezlebub33 (1220368) | about 4 years ago | (#33715854)

This is a great strategy for getting the public (largely ignorant of science in general; a huge percentage cannot explain why we have seasons) for getting behind exploration. We can say 'we're looking for life, we've got lots of clues!' and then use the money to go do the science we should be doing.

Well done, NASA PR department!

Re:OH COME ON (1)

blai (1380673) | about 4 years ago | (#33714274)

If you wish not to be informed of our current research status, you can choose to unsubscribe by adding slashdot.org = localhost to your hosts file.

Re:OH COME ON (1)

codewarren (927270) | about 4 years ago | (#33714284)

I want a "we found fucking life" article

I'd be fine even if the life were asexual.

Re:OH COME ON (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714430)

Well, my Slashdot page says "News for nerds." at the top. Nerds and geeks are the people that want to hear about the details and the road to the eventual breakthrough discovery.

Besides, this is a pretty big breakthrough in and of itself if it is true. Soon, textbooks will have to have a paragraph about the methane that's being produced on Mars and textbooks will have to discuss hypotheses about the origins of it.

Re:OH COME ON (1)

billcopc (196330) | about 4 years ago | (#33714570)

This seems like a "Please don't nerf NASA, we're on the verge of finding shit" kind of press release. As much as the prospect of expanding our cosmic knowledge is alluring to me, I think right now the world has some far more pressing matters to resolve down here, before we start infecting other planets with the disease that is modern society.

Re:OH COME ON (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714762)

This seems like a "Please don't nerf NASA, we're on the verge of finding shit" kind of press release. As much as the prospect of expanding our cosmic knowledge is alluring to me, I think right now the world has some far more pressing matters to resolve down here, before we start infecting other planets with the disease that is modern society.

Yeah, Mars exploration isn't the same since the Mars Science Laboratory got renamed and reassigned as the McDonalds Wal-Mart Mars Strip Mall Prospector. The future missions will apparently focus on building highways and suburbian developments and on the possibility of declaring war on the subterranean methane bugs.

Must be funding time for NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714946)

They only publish "life on Mars" teaser stories when it's time for Congress to do their budget.

In other news... (5, Funny)

gearsmithy (1869466) | about 4 years ago | (#33714098)

Martians label Earth "stupidest planet ever" for measuring their farts billions of times...

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714212)

Don't be rediculous, we all know its coming from URANUS!

Late-Breaking News from the Council: PERVERSION! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714404)

In other news...
Martians label Earth "stupidest planet ever" for measuring their farts billions of times...

Today the Council of Elders confirmed the rumours that the sinister blue planet third from our star has been engaged in acts so bizarre, so perverted, so far beyond the pink, that the only response can be to prepare for war.

"PERVERSION!", thundered K'Breel, as he addressed the Council:

"The mechanized monsters on the surface of our fair world were not the only harbingers of filth from the Blue Planet. The stink of their own poisonous oxygenated atmosphere wasn't foul enough. Having three quarters of their world covered in liquid dihydrogen monoxide wasn't corrosive enough. The practice of diluting of solutions of ethanol and carbon dioxide with DHMO - and the subsequent use of the DHMO as an intoxicant - wasn't enough. Ever in pursuit of new perversions, we now have confirmation that their orbital robotic stations in orbit around our fair world were placed there to sniff our farts."

When it a junior exobiologist suggested that the lifeforms of the Blue Planet were merely interested in possible commonalities in biochemistry across different evolutionary histories and metabolic pathways, K'Breel had the exobiologist's gelsacs removed for fermentation - by methanogens, the way the Founders intended us to get drunk.

Re:In other news... (1)

arivanov (12034) | about 4 years ago | (#33714552)

That is still better than them grokking us. At least according to Michael Valentine Smith and he is probably the ultimate authority on that.

Re:In other news... (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 years ago | (#33715496)

At least according to Michael Valentine Smith

Please, his name was Valentine Michael Smith...

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33715644)

No, his name was Smith Valentine Michael.

Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714144)

The planet is cold. I guess they want to warm it up.

Signs of life? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 4 years ago | (#33714292)

They should be looking for small quantities of refined Illudium Q-36

Just in Time! (3, Funny)

davevr (29843) | about 4 years ago | (#33714304)

Someone call Mazlan Othman asap!

Re:Just in Time! (1)

gparent (1242548) | about 4 years ago | (#33714534)

Hell yeah, that was quick. Maybe we should wait until Netcraft confirms it before claiming something isn't 'dead' though.

Nice way to narrow it down. (3, Insightful)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 4 years ago | (#33714320)

FTFA: 'It could be geology or biology, but it is not coming from another source.'

Another source like what? Comets hitting the planet? Isn't geology pretty freaking broad for a category?

That's like looking at a rock on the Earth and saying "Well, we are pretty sure that it either formed here on earth, or it is a meteorite."

Re:Nice way to narrow it down. (3, Interesting)

ceejayoz (567949) | about 4 years ago | (#33714402)

Both are big deals - Mars isn't believed to be geologically active, and life would be a massively interesting find for obvious reasons.

The seasonality rules out explanations like cosmic rays generating methane.

Re:Nice way to narrow it down. (2, Insightful)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 4 years ago | (#33714494)

Both are big deals - Mars isn't believed to be geologically active, and life would be a massively interesting find for obvious reasons.
The seasonality rules out explanations like cosmic rays generating methane.

That's a fair response. I just thought it was fairly broad since I subconsciously eliminated the cosmic ray option since they did mention seasonality.

Ignoring the biological aspect for a moment. Geological just seems so damned broad as to incorporate pretty much everything on a planet. If it were a Jovian moon, I'd consider it less broad of a suggestion since you would then be eliminating seasonal influences from Jupiter in stating that it was just geological.

Re:Nice way to narrow it down. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33715536)

I would love to read their proof that the methane does not come from ventriloquistic farts.

Seasonal meteorite showers, anyone? (2, Insightful)

kiwix (1810960) | about 4 years ago | (#33715860)

The seasonality doesn't really rule out an external source. On Earth we have seasonal meteorite showers, I guess they could have the same on Mars.

Re:Nice way to narrow it down. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714420)

Maybe you shouldn't quit your day job at McDonald's.

Re:Nice way to narrow it down. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714554)

Hey now, be nice. Sometimes blind squirrels can't find any nuts. They should be pitied, not mocked.

Re:Nice way to narrow it down. (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 4 years ago | (#33714998)

Here is another explanation that isn't really geology or biology: It get trapped into methane hydrates in the winter time.

I always hate when people say things like "it's not X" without an explicit non-existence proof.

Time to mine it! (0, Offtopic)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#33714352)

Time to mine it!

Re:Time to mine it! (3, Informative)

canajin56 (660655) | about 4 years ago | (#33714588)

We have tons of methane mined daily right on Earth. We burn it off at the source because we can't be arsed to pipe it anywhere. If you can't even be bothered piping it from an oil rig, why would you fly it through interplanetary space? I know, bad form, serious reply to non-serious post ;)

seasonal geology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714438)

I wouldn't expect volcanoes per se to be seasonal. Sounds like a freeze/thaw cycle on stuff methane that's already there, which could be from any cause.

Re:seasonal geology? (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | about 4 years ago | (#33715918)

I think that is what the scientists are thinking as well. However, given that methane freezes at -182.15C and the average temperatures on Mars are -63C with the lowest recorded temperature of -140C and the highest temperature of 20C, I doubt that it is from methane freezing and thawing. It is possible that the methane is trapped in some other medium which allows it to escape with the temperatures are warmer in the summer.

Cycle of methane levels? (1)

WSOGMM (1460481) | about 4 years ago | (#33714486)

I have those, too. Mine are especially high after dinner.

Re:Cycle of methane levels? (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | about 4 years ago | (#33714764)

I stopped eating meat and dairy and this problem went away.

Re:Cycle of methane levels? (1)

jpapon (1877296) | about 4 years ago | (#33715310)

I stopped eating meat and dairy and this problem went away.

Gooood for yooouuuuuu! Do you enjoy the smell of your farts now as well?

Re:Cycle of methane levels? (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 4 years ago | (#33715660)

I stopped eating meat and dairy and this problem went away.

I started eating Onions, Cabbage, and Beans and now my house is being tapped for biofuels!

CDIC a side (1)

kenp2002 (545495) | about 4 years ago | (#33714506)

In further news Saturn's climate and chemical activity is also influenced by seasons.

Using a hydrocarbon as a measuring stick for the presence of life is not a very good indicator. Venus has oceans of the crap sloshing around. doesn't imply life.

Here is what we do. get a bunch of people with a terminal disease that gives them 20 years or so of life left. Or the entire viewing audience of Jersey Shore. Put them on a 1 way rocket to Mars with a crap load of Cheetoes and snack foods. Throw in Lohan as a plaything, she's too cracked out to even notice these days...

Send them there. They can then dig around and when one of them get's eaten by something alive there, then the rest of us here on Earth who are busy dodging bullets, fighting hunger, and dealing with assholes will give two shits about life on Mars. In the mean time some of us have important immediate concerns to deal with besides whether there is a new strain of microbe on Mars.

For instance, the HTC versus the iPhone, or the new season of Dr. Who...

Re:CDIC a side (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | about 4 years ago | (#33714710)

Throw in Lohan as a plaything, she's too cracked out to even notice these days...

She'll notice when she runs out of crack

Re:CDIC a side (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 4 years ago | (#33714794)

Yeah, because there aren't _any_ engineers, scientists, or biologists who would take a one-way-trip to Mars.

Re:CDIC a side (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 4 years ago | (#33714912)

the entire viewing audience of Jersey Shore. Put them on a 1 way rocket to Mars with a crap load of Cheetoes and snack foods. Throw in Lohan as a plaything, she's too cracked out to even notice these days...

Are these the kinds of people we want to be ambassadors to Earth? Any alien race who came across them would be compelled to destroy the Earth in order to prevent our stupidity from spreading.

Re:CDIC a side (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about 4 years ago | (#33715434)

Using a hydrocarbon as a measuring stick for the presence of life is not a very good indicator. Venus has oceans of the crap sloshing around. doesn't imply life.

Venus? I think you meant Titan.

Yeah, sure.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714592)

just 'cause there's a lot of methane it does not mean there's a lot of farting aliens...

This can only mean one thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714716)

Methane emissions on Mars? Must be Martian Cows!

geological how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714722)

What sort of geological mechanism generates seasonal emissions of methane?

Re:geological how? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 years ago | (#33714742)

Off the top of my head, outgassing as ice melts during spring and summer, either by release of methane trapped below the ice or possibly in the ice.

Question? (0, Redundant)

StripedCow (776465) | about 4 years ago | (#33714786)

If they find life, how can they be sure it didn't originate from Earth?
I mean, bacteria could have traveled along with the mars rover as free-riders, and may by now have multiplied into billions.

Re:Question? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33715012)

If it has DNA then we don't know. If there is fossils we do know.

If it has DNA we can look the difference, but then there will be always the question where the life came from.

Re:Question? (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | about 4 years ago | (#33715894)

Maybe. Let's say it resembles a bacterium on Earth except for the fact that the one on Mars has organelles or other internal structural features that take a very long time to develop that are absent from the one on Earth (or vice versa). You can then say with some certainty that it wasn't contamination during the Space Age. If further samples indicated that the variation in DNA was so great that the most recent common ancestor to all of them was a few million years ago at the earliest, it's old enough to call it Martian life regardless of the ultimate source of organic matter.

Re:Question? (1)

Guido von Guido (548827) | about 4 years ago | (#33715162)

If they find life, how can they be sure it didn't originate from Earth? I mean, bacteria could have traveled along with the mars rover as free-riders, and may by now have multiplied into billions.

Let's suppose there is life on Mars. We can get a pretty good idea of whether or not it's related to life forms on Earth by examining it and seeing how close it is to organisms here. If it has DNA, we could sequence it.

For instance, suppose it looks a lot like terrestrial bacteria, it has DNA, and its genetic code is nearly identical to or very similar to specific terrestrial bacteria. Then yes, it probably came over as contamination.

Suppose it uses DNA, but it doesn't remotely resemble any living bacteria. This may indicate that it evolved from terrestrial bacteria that came over earlier (i.e., hitched a ride on a meteorite). Or that terrestrial life evolved from a hitchhiking Martian bacteria.

Suppose it uses a slightly different DNA system than ours. For instance, the bases may be slightly different, or it uses only RNA, or something along those lines. Depending on the level of the differences, this could indicate that it evolved independently from terrestrial life, or that it hitchhiked over very early in the development of life.

Suppose the Martian organism doesn't use DNA at all. This may indicate that it's completely independent of terrestrial life. That's assuming that life on Earth always used DNA (or at least RNA), which isn't necessarily true.

Re:Question? (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | about 4 years ago | (#33715236)

If you go that route, how can we be sure that life on Earth didn't originate from Mars?
We did have Martian soil impact earth in the past, so you never know right?

Easily explained (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | about 4 years ago | (#33714792)

It's the subterranean Martian buffalo flatulance.

Well that's lucky... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33714904)

If women were from Mars, we wouldn't get any readings at all.

Converging on a solution! (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 4 years ago | (#33715036)

It could be geology or biology,

Oh, well, that narrows it down.

In other news, physicists said that before the Big Bang there was either something or nothing. Oh, wait, bad example. :-) Ah, I tease you, physicists! Give us a smile.

Calling all climate change advocates (1)

odysseus_complex (79966) | about 4 years ago | (#33715558)

Great, now we have to worry about global warming on Mars!

No Uranus jokes?? (1, Insightful)

MooseTick (895855) | about 4 years ago | (#33715568)

I can't believe an article about space, biology, and methane has no comments about Uranus. Slashdot has let me down again.

Biological vs Geological (2, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | about 4 years ago | (#33715812)

Actually, 'biological' should be 'current biological'.

Grab a sample of Martian methane and check its distribution of carbon isotopes. Carbon sequestered thousands or millions of years ago should have different ratios from atmospheric sources (the principle of carbon dating). Current biological activity should reflect the ratios of the existing carbon sources.

Of course, if underground life is munching on 'old' carbon, its farts will look old as well. Just as old as CH4 sequestered a long time ago and leaking to the surface only now.

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