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Methane on Mars: NASA report

  1. Jan 16, 2009 #1

    jim mcnamara

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    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/news/marsmethane.html

    NASA reports evidence of methane in the Martian atmosphere. There are several ways to explain the methane -

    Methane trapped in pockets in the bedrock being released

    Methane being created at greater depths by geochemical processes, driven by heat from the core

    Biosynthesis of methane - ie., living bacteria like organisms.


    At the meeting several of the geologists suggested that the biosynthetic explanation may not be too far fetched because the seimic activity and core heat of Mars are minimal.
     
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  3. Jan 16, 2009 #2

    baywax

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    I remember Titian has its methane rain and frozen methane deserts.

    Isn't Titian minimally active as far as core heat and seismic activity go?
     
  4. Jan 16, 2009 #3

    jim mcnamara

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    Titan has liquid methane because of low temperatures and greatly reduced solar wind compared to Mars. On Mars methane gas exits the atmosphere after a while. Titan is able to hold onto it.

    The reducing atmosphere of Titan is it's primary atmosphere, the one from original plantaery (moon-etary?) formation. It's atmosphere is like the one Earth had before the genesis of photosynthetic oxygen. Earth has a secondary atmosphere now.

    Anyway, that is why the researchers cannot rule out 'fossil' methane as a source of the gas they are seeing.
     
  5. Jan 16, 2009 #4

    baywax

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    Thank you. Very interesting. Could be Martian cows.
     
  6. Jan 18, 2009 #5
    More likely Buggalo. :smile:

    I heard about this, the only way to test it is to send a probe and collect some, shouldn't the Carbon in methane contain more C14 than chemically laid down carbon?
     
  7. Jan 18, 2009 #6

    mgb_phys

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    C14 is formed from N14 in the Earth's atmosphere - I wouldn't expect very much C14 in Mar's atmosphere.
     
  8. Jan 18, 2009 #7
    I see so how would we go about determining if a sample was chemically formed or biologically formed?
     
  9. Jan 18, 2009 #8

    mgb_phys

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    On mars? no idea!
    Any trace of C14 would be interesting - but if it was biologically formed millions of years ago there wouldn't be any C14 anyway (it would have decayed).
    You might find He3/He4 istopes mixed in, He4 would suggest it came from underground He3 would imply extraterrestrial (or whaterver is latin for extra-mars?) ie. from comets/meteors
     
  10. Jan 19, 2009 #9
    i see no reason why much of the "fossil" fuel on earth can't be abiogenic. the solar system is full of hydrocarbons.
     
  11. Jan 19, 2009 #10

    mgb_phys

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    Geological opinion would be against you
     
  12. Jan 19, 2009 #11
    no reason to believe much of the biogenic is fossil-sourced, either. plenty of anaerobes making methane and such.
     
  13. Jan 20, 2009 #12
    Actually there is a significant amount of C14 in fossil fuels that can pretty much only be explained if the matter was once part of a living thing.
     
  14. Jan 20, 2009 #13

    stewartcs

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    Sweet! Perhaps we can lease one of our drilling rigs to NASA so they can do some natural gas exploration! :rofl:

    CS
     
  15. Jan 20, 2009 #14
    sure, and methane is constantly being produced on the seafloor by archaea, but it's not like all that was produced millions of years ago by decaying dinosaurs and ferns, it's a continuous process.

    and what percentage of that significance do you think accounts for living things as a source of hydrocarbons?

    anyhoo, i can't say i'd be shocked if subterranean microbes or their fossils were discovered on Mars. methane doesn't excite me, though. the methane could be inorganic. wake me up when they find coal.
     
  16. Jan 21, 2009 #15
    No ones disputing that methane occurs as part of non organic chemistry. But everyone's pretty sure as you intimate, that coal and oil are the result of organic life.
     
  17. Jan 21, 2009 #16

    baywax

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    If life on Mars was anything like life on Earth wouldn't there be evidence of it in fossil, dormant spores etc... or actual living organisms all over the planet? I mean, is there one area of Earth that does not have some evidence of life (other than Spuzzum B.C.)?
     
  18. Jan 22, 2009 #17

    Bystander

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