It’s official: One day our cars could be powered by non-terrestrial methane. Yes, because the news of the last days coming from an Italian working group is precisely this: the confirmation of the presence of methane on Mars.
The news was reported by the magazine
After the first announcement made by both the
, the European Space Agency, but it was a group of Italian researchers from the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) coordinated by Marco Giuranna and composed by Vittorio Formisano, Alessandro Aronica, Giuseppe Etiope, the latter also of the
National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV)
, and Marilena Amoroso of
Italian Space Agency (ASI)
Not a novelty of breaking in fact, because already some signal had already been in 2004, when first signs of natural gas, in the order of a few parts per billion per volume taken into consideration, had been from a relief in orbit of the substance thanks to the probe Mars Express. A first contact with the red planet that had given few signs but exhilarating, then indispensable for the reliefs that from 2012 would have followed no longer in orbit but on the ground thanks to the Curiosity rover. The objective of the studies was the Gale crater, where the Mars Express probe had made the first reliefs 8 years earlier.
“Finally we have the first simultaneous observation of methane on Mars, in the same place and at the same time, by two independent and very different instruments: a rover on the surface and a spectrometer orbiting the planet -says Giuranna on the site of the Asi- The most important result is that two completely independent studies suggest the same place of origin. Although when we talk about parts per billion in general it means a relatively small amount, it is quite remarkable for Mars -Continue Giuranna- Our measurement corresponds, on average, to about 46 tonnes of methane present in an area of 49 thousand square kilometers observed by our orbit. “
But what does the presence of these natural gas presences on a deserted planet derive from? Has there been life on Mars?
The thesis of scientists now embraces two assumptions: the first is that this formation of these slender traces of methane in the subsoil and atmosphere of the planet derive from imposing geochemical reactions and that would exclude or resize the presence of Life in a distant past. Or, second hypothesis, which sees the presence of living microorganisms and resistant to the harsh living conditions in the Martian atmosphere. Their activity, during or at the end of their life cycle, may have given way to the formation of gas presences in the atmosphere and underground of Mars.
Not only that. “We have identified tectonic faults that could extend below a region where there may be ice -specified co-author of the study, Giuseppe Etiope – Since the permafrost has an excellent seal for methane, it is possible that the ice could trap large amounts of methane underground and that it is then released along the faults that episodically break. “
“We Have not discovered the last origin of methane -precise Giuranna- Many abiotic and biotic processes can generate methane on Mars. However Concludes the first step in understanding the origin of methane on Mars is to determine the places of release. A detailed analysis of these places in the end will help us to reveal the origin and meaning of the methane detected. “