View Full Version : Discussion: Methane and Water Overlap on Mars

2004-Sep-20, 03:49 PM
SUMMARY: European scientists recently announced that they had discovered the presence of methane in the atmosphere of Mars using the Mars Express spacecraft. They've had a chance to perform further research on the data now, and produced a map of methane concentrations around the planet. This map surprisingly overlaps a similar map of Mars that shows where its water is located. It could be that geothermal processes are feeding the water table, and venting out methane at the same time. A more exciting possibility is that bacterial life survives wherever there's water, and it's producing methane as a byproduct.

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

Eric Vaxxine
2004-Sep-20, 04:06 PM
Life on Mars is not a scary thought. It would be NORMAL for a planet to harbour life. Life in a gas giant would be unusual. <_<

I am waiting to see who claims the planet though. I appreciate the Americans have landed first, but it will be settlement boundaries that start the feuding.

2004-Sep-20, 04:14 PM
A few years ago I read how some minerals found in deep gold mines of South Africa were determined to be produced by anerobic bacteria digesting other minerals. Perhaps we ought to be looking in deep mines for the kinds of bacteria that might be found on Mars. The subterrenean thermal gradient and juvenile water from igneous sources could provide a warm, moist environment for microbal life on Mars.

Then too, didn&#39;t Jules Verne, among others, picture aliens living in cave systems below the surface (the moon in his case, if I recall right)? Maybe if some folks are still looking for little green men on Mars we need to send a rover with a stythescope and a big hammer to pound on large rocks and bedrock layer formations in case someone down below might be interested in talking to us.

2004-Sep-20, 04:42 PM
this is strange, is there any kind of mission planned to confirm this data in the next year or so ?

2004-Sep-20, 05:55 PM
Could this discovery possibly tell us anything about the earth-dwelling archaebacter?

2004-Sep-20, 06:33 PM
Fraser-- Areothermal, ifyapleez&#33; I don&#39;t think the amount present can be accounted for plausibly by nonbiological causes. While methane is a wonderful greenhouse gas, its lifetime in Earth&#39;s atmosphere is less than 10Kyears because solar UV dissociates it. On Mars, call it twice that long (farther away, but no ozone layer to filter the UV) without constant replenishment. Simplicity suggests anaerobic bacteria processing sulfur for their energy, emitting methane as a byproduct. Web search SciAm articles containing the keywords "methane clathrate." These little guys form clathrate blocks (methane surrounded by a dodecahedral cage of ice) at ocean (or bay) depths of 600-900m, the size of New Jersey. When this stuff gets silted over, then subducted and subjected to Myears of heat and pressure, we end up with Quaker State under a salt dome.
I favor common origin-- microbes are the most likely to survive the trip when spallation by meteorites knocks blocks from here to Mars or vice-versa.
Regards, Steve

2004-Sep-21, 04:32 AM
Existence of bacterial lifeform on Mars is exciting indeed. But a more advance subterrainian lifeforms could also be possible to exist considering the conclusion arrived at based on the data collected by the rovers that there was surfacewater long time. I would bet that liquid water exists below the surface and that water very near the surface would have to contain salts to prevent water from freezing. At high-in-salt condition, bacterial lifeform could still exist as there are bacteria found in the Dead sea where there is too much salt) but these are very unique since they have the "pump" to expel ions out of their system. I think methane-producing bacteria is still premature to consider. The correlation between water and methane localized concentrations must be investigated further.

2004-Sep-21, 05:01 AM
Hey Steve, I&#39;m just taking the conservative, scientific approach here with my reporting. It smells like life to me, but just to be on the safe side, I&#39;m going to present alternative explanations.

Regarding upcoming missions, there&#39;s a Canadian instrument in the works called MARVEL (Mars Volcanic Emission and Life mission) which will look through the edge of the Martian atmosphere towards the Sun, and detect the presense of methane. It&#39;ll be incredibly sensitive, and should put this question mostly to rest.

http://whirlwind.atmosp.physics.utoronto.c...ICA-marvel.html (http://whirlwind.atmosp.physics.utoronto.ca/MICA/MICA-marvel.html)

2004-Sep-21, 05:21 PM
I&#39;m surprised that this is considered news. I thought that the methane kicks had already been shown to be over the areas, not only where water has been detected, but over the areas where the Rovers had shown evidence of previous wet conditions. I guess the news is the refinement of the data and a more detailed map.

I some ways, the new picture enhances both extremes. Until life is actually found, both are still valid.

Methane and carbon dioxide clathrates are curious things. When I was with British Petroleum, I mapped them over large areas of the Bering Sea and, where we had the data, over the continental shelf of Siberia. Later, at Sun Oil, I mapped them over almost the entire shelf off of North America. Since then, they have been found in lakes and seas over most of the world and in depths down to abyssal. Much of what I have seen had markers that suggested a biological origin, but there has been alot of evidence suggesting hydrothermal, nonbiological sources. I think they might be a source of the methane on Mars, which could be released episodically. It would also be the source of water/methane/carbon dioxide locked up under a cap of brine or other sediments. My ego would like the source of the methane on Mars to be of biological origin. I think I am a good enough scientist to keep both models going, though.

2004-Sep-21, 09:17 PM
Frankly, I vote for a non-biotic solution. We don&#39;t have biological solutions for the source of the great masses of methane on the gas giants. I think we have some chemistry going on under the martian sands that ooze out some by-products that seem uncommon here because of how life has incorporated the carbon, etc. in the earth environment. Just for a moment, picture that Mars has essentially the same elemental share and mix as earth. If the carbon isn&#39;t on the surface, where all the silicate sands are, and the nitrogen isn&#39;t filling the atmosphere in the same molecular form as here, then where else would it be but below that forlorn surface. What else would be capturing, containing, and reacting with this? Maybe the methane is a broad-breath temporary release like a yellowstone park geyser releases hot water (though in a more quick and concentrated stream). What if the subsurface fluid flows on Mars are remnants of a time when Mars may have more resembled Saturn&#39;s moon Titan and what didn&#39;t boil off sunk down to pool below the igneous martian surface. Where would all that stuff be if life wasn&#39;t snatching it up and using in ways more obvious to we earthlings?